Threat to Big Lottery – take action now

Today we are calling on the government to heed concerns about unprecedented cuts facing charities and act to protect the Big Lottery Fund (BLF) as its largest single funder.

What we know

Last week an anonymous campaign was launched called “Save the Big Lottery Fund” that claimed a £320m diversion of BLF funds was going to be announced in the Autumn Statement to compensate for forthcoming cuts to the arts and sports sectors.

A quick round of calls established that there was indeed something of this nature in the offing, though we are still not able to confirm the reported figures.

Earlier this week, NCVO and ACEVO wrote to ministers to try and head these plans off at the pass. None of these conversations has provided the reassurance we have sought, hence we are calling on our members to take action now to support these efforts.

Why it matters – the big and the small

Charities benefit from funding from all of the Lottery distributors, but the Big Lottery Fund is – as its name suggests – the biggest. It’s funding is worth around £500m a year, of which 95% goes to voluntary organisations. This makes it the single largest funder of the voluntary sector in the UK.

Despite its name, the other important thing to note is that BLF’s grants are primarily small. 90% of its grants are for less than £10k. This vital source of funds for small organisations enables people to come together in support of their communities and deliver projects that make a real difference.

Neither NCVO or ACEVO would wish to pit good causes against each other. The arts, heritage and sports distributors make a valuable contribution to our communities and national life. We believe that government recognises this too and is looking to mitigate the worst impact of potential DCMS cuts. But using Lottery cash is not the right way to do this. Additionality is a cherished principle underpinning the Lottery – that it should not be used to backfill for public spending cuts elsewhere.

Finally, it need hardly be said, but charities are under a great deal of pressure and will be further squeezed by cuts to be announced next week. The sector currently receives £13bn in income from government grants and contracts, much of which could be at risk in the coming years.

Even bigger issues

In our preparations for spending review and autumn statement, BLF was only one of a list of potential threats to the voluntary sector. As mentioned above, cuts to frontline services, particularly local services, are likely to have a much bigger impact.

And with Chancellor’s announcement of devolving business rates to LAs, we have also been seeking confirmation that charities will continue to be exempt from paying 80% of these rates. On this, we have had slightly more reassuring sounds from HMT. The success of the sector’s 2012 “Give It Back George” campaign perhaps not so far forgotten in some quarters.

What can I do?

Call or email your local MP today and tell them how vital BLF funds are to organisations in your community. A full list can be found by searching here.

Follow latest developments and join in the debate on social media #SR2015 and #VCS next week.

Charlotte Ravenscroft & Asheem Singh

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