Olympic raid on lottery cash ‘will put thousands of projects at risk’

Thousands of voluntary sector projects will close if the government goes ahead with reported plans to raid National Lottery funds to pay for the 2012 Olympics, according to Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

Etherington told last week’s NCVO annual conference that about 86,000 grassroots projects would find themselves without money from the Big Lottery Fund, if reports that the government will use £1.9bn from the fund to pay for the spiralling costs of the games are proved to be accurate.

He said that voluntary and community groups could lose between £300m and £650m, leaving them with no choice but to close down.

“It will create insecurity, uncertainty, and will threaten our work with some of the most disadvantaged individuals and communities in our society,” Etherington said.

He called on charities to join NCVO’s campaign against siphoning off lottery money for the Olympics.

Etherington also issued a stark warning against “mission creep”, where charities ignore their objectives in pursuit of public money from contracts.

Responding to a Charity Commission survey, which showed that nearly half of charities say their activities are at least partly determined by funding priorities rather than their own mission, he said it was an “absolute disaster” that independence was being compromised. Just 26 per cent of charities delivering public services feel free to make decisions without pressure to conform to their funders’ wishes.

“I would rather see voluntary organisations close than lose the reasons they exist in pursuit of funding that takes away their independence,” he said. He urged charity trustees to take more responsibility for deciding which contracts to accept.

Launching the report, Charity Commission chair Dame Suzi Leather said under-funding threatened the survival of charities delivering public services and that commissioners would have to act urgently. “If they don’t, they will end up killing the very thing they believe in,” she said.

The online survey, to which 3,800 charities responded, also found that only 12 per cent achieved full cost recovery on public sector contracts all of the time, implying that the rest were having to subsidise local authority and other public funders from their own resources.

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Mark Ivory


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