NEWS IN FOCUS: Lottery proposals praised - The sector has welcomed Tessa Jowell's suggestions for improving the way that National Lottery funds are distributed

JULIE PYBUS

The National Lottery will support more community-based, sustainable projects instead of large bricks-and-mortar projects, such as the Millennium Dome and Tate Modern, as part of a "permanent revolution

to reconnect the Lottery with the people that play it, the culture secretary announced last month.

Speaking in London on 20 March, Tessa Jowell said that a consultation paper "going back to first principles

of the Lottery will be published by the summer. In the wake of flops such as the Dome and last year's battle between Camelot and the People's Lottery for the franchise, Jowell said: "The Lottery is dependent on public confidence that the money is spent well. Bad news about the Lottery lowers ticket sales and that means less money for good causes. So it must provide a close connection with the people it serves."

A spokesman at the culture department says: "The Lottery will still have a role to play in new national projects, but there will have to be compelling arguments for removing the sort of proportion the Dome took out of the Millennium Commission budget."

Jowell outlined a number of possible reforms of the Lottery. They included ensuring a fairer geographical distribution of funds, reducing bureaucracy for small grants applicants and a halving of the £3.5 billion sitting dormant in the National Lottery Distribution Fund during the next two years.

After many years of fighting for such changes, the voluntary sector welcomed Jowell's speech.

Andrew Watt, head of policy at the Institute of Charity Fundraising Managers, says: "Jowell is talking a lot of common sense. She is making the Lottery more accessible for small projects - it's a major step forward."

The Lottery consultation will be in two parts - a "route map

for Lottery distribution during the next seven years and a review of the system of licensing and regulation of the Lottery.

Jowell emphasised that she wanted to see more local control of Lottery funds. "Lottery money should not be a slush fund for government but an innovation fund for communities,

she said. This calls into question the future of the controversial New Opportunities Fund, the distributor that receives the lion's share of good causes funding, yet has its funding programmes dictated by the Government - other distributors decide their own priorities.

Jowell wants to make it easier for small groups to apply for Lottery funding by reducing bureaucracy and perhaps cutting the confusing number of lottery distributors - there are now 15.

"It's a nonsense to apply the same controls to a £5 million sports complex as we would to a £5,000 community project,

she said. "I want to bring the Lottery closer to communities and cut out the middleman wherever I can. It can take too long to apply for a grant. You shouldn't have to beg for it or pass through a long, bewildering process just to get money for a community centre."

She suggested that Lottery distributors could run local groups to give out small grants of up to £500. Luke FitzHerbert, author of the National Lottery Yearbook, published by the Directory of Social Change, welcomes this. "A problem with the Lottery has been that grants have been big, slow and controlled by professionals rather than volunteers even when the idea was to support small-scale community endeavour,

he said.

A network of Lottery advice shops could help communities apply for Lottery funding, said Jowell. Watt approves of this. "One of the constant cries in voluntary organisations is where do I go for funding,

he says. "If you could go with a project outline to a central point and put in one bid to fund the project in its entirety including core costs, it would be a massive step forward."

Jowell said the review would consider funding core costs, a more flexible approach to partnership funding and allowing the Community Fund to set up expendable endowments to help meet running costs - a problem that has dogged many millennium projects.

Jowell discussed a much-welcomed push for the fairer geographical distribution of Lottery funds. This has been a problem since the Lottery began seven years ago when funds were directed towards large projects, particularly in London. In spite of the 1998 National Lottery Act, which attempted to address this problem, the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund in particular have continued to favour some areas over others.

"People throughout the country play the Lottery - so all parts of the country should see the benefits,

said Jowell, highlighting the £150 million Fair Share scheme run by the Community Fund and the New Opportunities Fund, which targets deprived areas. "I'm therefore issuing a challenge to all other distributors to draw up their own lists of losing areas and target their resources on these."

The £3.5 billion sitting in the National Lottery Distribution Fund has already been committed but Jowell wants to introduce time limits for the take up of grants and advance payments for low-risk projects.

Depending on the outcome of the consultation, legislation or Parliamentary resolutions may be required to make the required changes to the Lottery.

RE-ENGAGING LOTTERY PLAYERS

"Lottery fatigue

has hit sales of lottery tickets in recent years, which have slumped from their peak of £5.5 billion in 1997-98 to £4.9 billion in 2000-01. To combat this, Camelot is planning to relaunch the Lottery in the coming months with the aim of "re-engaging players and re-igniting interest in the Lottery,

according to a spokeswoman. This will start with a new £3.2 million ad campaign that will focus on the charitable work funded by players' money.

During the previous seven-year licence period, the Lottery raised £10.5 billion for good causes. During the next licence period, which began on 27 January 2002, it is hoped that a similar amount will be raised, despite the anticipated extra competition expected to be created by changes included in the Government's White Paper on gambling, released on 26 March.

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