Newsmaker: Reasons to be cheerful - Sir Clive Booth Chair, Big Lottery Fund

Stephen Cook

- He says the BLF has responded to the voluntary sector's concerns.

On the desk is a large sheet of paper, carefully folded to show only the first column, which Sir Clive Booth glances at as he talks. It's a list of all the new programmes of the Big Lottery Fund that will be announced this year.

Asked to reveal all, he hesitates, but eventually opens it up, revealing a large and complex patchwork of timelines and coloured boxes, with the colour orange as the start date of each programme. This is the big challenge at the top of Sir Clive's in-tray.

He's quite aware of the dissatisfaction in the voluntary sector about the merging of the Community Fund and the New Opportunities Fund into the Big Lottery Fund, and of its frustration over the hiatus between the end of old grants programmes and the beginning of new ones.

But his expectation is that the sector will like the new ones so much that its dissatisfaction will melt away. There will be a less time-wasting application process, he points out, money available for infrastructure, grants over five years instead of three, and a greater variety of programmes and types of grant.

"My concern is that in 12 months' time the roll-outs should be completed and people will be pleased that we have actually delivered on the things they told us they wanted to be different," says Sir Clive. "I hope people will think it worth waiting for when it finally happens."

But changes in procedures and types of programme have not been the only things on the mind of the voluntary sector. Many people wanted the continuation of the Community Fund, which set its own overall policy as well as making grants, and resisted the arrival of the Big Lottery Fund, in which overarching themes are laid down by the Government and Sir Clive's board designs and delivers programmes.

There has also been a political fight in the Commons over three sore points that could be raised again as the National Lottery Bill makes its way through the Lords: the clause that gives ministers unfettered power to tell the BLF what to do, the Government's refusal to guarantee in the Bill that 60-70 per cent of BLF funding will go to the voluntary sector and its refusal to define 'additionality'.

On the first sore point, Sir Clive raises his hands ruefully and says: "That's what governments always do when setting up non-departmental public bodies. They might be rather nervous about not having a reserve power because it could mean that if something went badly wrong they couldn't do anything about it."

He says he doesn't have a view about writing the 60-70 per cent question into the Bill. "It's an essentially political question," he says. "But that figure comes from my board and we have made it clear we will be transparent and that auditors will run checks and confirm if we've achieved it.

"I don't think the voluntary sector should underestimate its clout with any future BLF board, and I'm sure it would know from its inheritance that the sector is there and a whole range of programmes have been designed around it. I would be very surprised if a new board would want to unpick it."

On additionality, he says the BLF has a definition it can work with - "distinct from government funding and adding value" - and that the recent pledge that all lottery distributors will report on additionality means the argument has reached "quite a good resting place for the time being".

The final consolation Sir Clive offers the sector is that more than one third of funding will be in programmes where it can put up its own ideas: "I think people will be pleased when they realise how much scope there is for them to offer creative solutions and get funding for them from us."

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