National Lottery revenue fall leads to £200m drop in Big Lottery Fund grants

According to the grant-maker's accounts for the year to March, new grants amounted to £520m, down from £717m in the previous year

BLF accounts
BLF accounts

The value of new grants committed to by the Big Lottery Fund fell by almost £200m last year in the wake of a drop in National Lottery revenue. 

The grant-maker’s accounts for the year to 31 March 2018, published on Friday, show new grants that the funder committed to giving out totalled £520m, down from £717m in the previous year.

The amount of money the BLF received from the National Lottery in 2017/18 was £654m, up £2m on the year before, but down from £769m in the year to 31 March 2016.

Figures released by the Gambling Commission in June show the money given to good causes from the National Lottery in the year to March 31 2017 fell by £293.5m on the year before, which the operator Camelot blamed on a fall in sales.

But Dawn Austwick, chief executive of the BLF, said income from the National Lottery was expected to stabilise.

Austwick says in the report: "While we paid out grants to the value of £655m this year, we reduced the value of new grants we committed – recognising the scale of our existing commitments as well as the uncertainty at the start of the year over National Lottery revenue.

"I am delighted that the drop in revenue seen in 2016/17 was not repeated this year, providing us with greater stability and certainty for our forward planning."

The funder has budgeted for an income of £640m from the National Lottery in 2018/19, according to the accounts, and aims to stay within its target of spending less than 8 per cent of lottery income on its own operating costs, a target it beat this year, spending 7 per cent on operating costs.

Staff numbers feel during the year fell from 851 full-time-equivalent employees to 841, which includes 50.7 full-time-equivalent staff who left the organisation in March as a result of restructures.

But the report says this number is expected to increase over the current financial year to "support key development and investment activity".

The report says the BLF will continue to assess the potential for greater efficiency in its small grants work as it adopts more digital ways of working and as applications through its online portal grow.

A spokeswoman for the Big Lottery Fund said: "The budget we have set for next year reflects a more stable forecast for returns to good causes. We have the important job of funding people’s great ideas on how to make a difference in their communities and will continue to work with Camelot and the other distributors to see these returns grow in the future.

"The National Lottery has delivered more than £38bn to good causes. It is in everyone’s interest that it has a vibrant and successful future."

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