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Wednesday, 4 October, 2000, 05:35 GMT 06:35 UK
Governmen 'meddling' in Lottery pay-outs
Lottery ticket
Camelot may be asked to carry on, at least for now
A charity body has accused the government of "meddling" in the distribution of National Lottery money.

The criticism made by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) centres on the New Opportunities Fund, which was set up to make Lottery grants to health, education and environmental projects.

It says that the government is interfering by giving directions to the fund.

Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson: Wants to run the National Lottery
Just last week the government announced that 750m of Lottery money would be spent on sports facilities for schools and would be channelled through the fund.

NCVO also argues that there has been a potentially dangerous erosion of the principle that Lottery funds should not be used in place of taxpayers money.

Its chief executive, Stuart Etherington, said Lottery funds should not be used to replace government expenditure.

"NCVO strongly believes that money raised by the Lottery should only be used for projects and services that are truly additional to, and not in place of, those which should be funded by the government through taxation," he said.

The body's complaints were made in a written submission to the House of Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport's inquiry into the operation of the National Lottery.

'Costly' delays

NCVO also fears that the legal dispute over who gets to run the National Lottery could prevent much-needed money being awarded to charities.

The National Lottery Commission is deciding whether Camelot or Sir Richard Branson's People Lottery should be given the new licence to run the game once Camelot's seven-year contract runs out.

But delays in the decision-making process and High Court challenges could mean the lottery is forced to shut down temporarily.

Mr Etherington said the NCVO wanted reassurances that this would not happen.

"We will be looking for reassurances from the Lottery Commission that the recent delays in awarding the licence to run the lottery will not affect the integrity and future efficient running of the lottery," he said.

"Crucially it must not affect the continuity of money distributed to good causes."

Stripped

Its criticism coincides with the publication of a survey conducted for the NCVO that says 70% of people asked believe an independent, publicly-appointed body should be responsible for deciding how Lottery money is distributed.

The ICM survey reveals that 80% of 34 to 44-year-olds and 55% of 18 to 24-year-olds asked think the government should be stripped of this role.

Only 12% of the 1,055 people surveyed believe that distributing and deciding where lottery money is spent should be a government responsibility.

In total 61% of respondents backed the idea that charities should receive lottery funding.

Of those asked 37% were happy with the Lottery being used to fund arts and 51% believed that sport should be lottery funded.

But 30% believed it was the government's responsibility to fund the arts and 40% thought it was also its responsibility to funds sports.

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See also:

01 Oct 00 | Business
Lottery shutdown warning
26 Sep 00 | Education
School sport's golden goal
22 Aug 00 | Business
The life of the lottery
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