Funds merger sparks independence fears

A merger of the New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund was
confirmed this week, despite concerns from within the voluntary
sector that it could affect funding (news, page 12, 30

Announcing the move, culture secretary Tessa Jowell described it as
an opportunity to “create a new Lottery good-cause distributor,
which will build on the strengths of both organisations”.

Baroness Pitkeathley, chairperson of the government’s New
Opportunities Fund, said: “We regard the new merger as an exciting
challenge. Increased benefits for the communities will be the acid
test. Partnership, tackling disadvantage, improving community
services and local priority setting must be the key themes of the
new body.”

Pitkeathley added that the NOF was “already a very substantial
funder of the voluntary sector” and had committed around 40 per
cent of its £1.62bn to projects in the sector.

But there are fears that the merger will result in less money going
to charities whose activities do not relate to government
objectives but who have in the past been given grants by the
independent Community Fund.

Research for the Community Fund, also released this week, shows
that the public does not want lottery money spent on projects that
the state should be funding.

However, more than half believe the two lottery funds should merge,
but with 50 per cent of the new distributor’s funds continuing to
go to the former Community Fund’s causes.

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