“Labour MPs are the big lottery winners”…..
“Labour MPs are the big lottery winners” screamed the headline in Sunday’s Telegraph newspaper. The Big Lottery Fund was accused of political bias because last year the five constituencies to whom we distributed most money were all held by Labour MPs.
With our focus on needy communities, our grants tend to go towards more deprived areas which tend to elect Labour MPs. But as the Telegraph’s leader column noted, the funding gap cannot be explained by that consideration alone. Indeed not. The fact is that based in every one of the five consituencies mentioned one can find the headquarters of major organisations to whom we made significant awards.
Islington South and Finsbury which received the most of all – £24 million – is home to the Royal Mencap Society, the National Deaf Children’s Society, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services. I could go on.
Mind – the National Society for Mental Health bumps up the West Ham figures. And so on. So there is bias in evidence. It is the bias shown by these organisations with national reach as to where they choose to have their head office.
As a Fund we certainly should not fall into believing that need can only be found in areas traditionally defined as deprived. We have heard lots about pockets of deprivation and dispersed poverty in this consultation. We know that need can be psychological as well as material. And some types of need – such as that facing people with disabilities – are to be found everywhere. Our funding of such need should consequently be wide- spread geographically, even if it sometimes scores against a single constituency for statistical purposes.
The flexibility of lottery funding is of great benefit here.While there is more to do, we were very pleased with the Public Accounts Committee’s recent conclusion that
“The Big Lottery Fund has increased the spread of successful applications across the United Kingdom and from different social groups, but more could be done by other grant-makers to raise potential grant applicants’ awareness of available funding and to stimulate higher quality applications. Grant-makers should seek to learn from Big Lottery Fund’s approach, including its regional outreach operations.”
As for the allegations of political correctness based on the paper’s analysis of 11 carefully selected awards from the 11, 586 we made last year, it is a pity that it seems to have confused the term political correctness with a determined effort to tackle racism.
Anyway, you can have your say. Consultation questions UK 2.1 and 2.2. address the balance between targeting need and the spread of funding, so if you want to make sure your thoughts on the matter are taken into account please complete the online survey.
17 days to go!