Tell them where the profits go and people will dig deep

ONE of the key drivers behind British success in the Olympics has been the funding sport received from the National Lottery.

ONE of the key drivers behind British success in the Olympics has been the funding sport received from the National Lottery.

The same can be said for a massive number of arts and community initiatives across the UK.

Government cannot provide for everything but peoples’ dreams of winning millions can be used instead, it seems.

They are much more willing to dig into their pockets when it is not just to pay tax.

The trick the National Lottery pulled is not just the massive prizes on offer, but where the money it makes goes.

For every £1 that the public spends on Lottery tickets, 28p goes to good causes. These are the arts, charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises, heritage, health, education, the environment and sports.

It has raised £30m. a week since it was introduced in 1994 and the legacy is there for all to see.

A breakdown shows that about 12p in the £1 goes to the UK government in duty.

Last week, the Channel Islands ‘million pound’ lottery flopped – and one of the areas in which it can clearly be criticised is not being clear about where the profits would end up.

Culture and Leisure minister Mike O’Hara, pictured right, came under pressure when the department announced the draw because the money raised in Jersey would go to charity, yet in Guernsey the States would pocket the cash.

It eventually relented and said it would produce a report before the end of the year so that a full debate could be held on what to do with lottery money – and the £250,000 unclaimed-prizes fund.

It is high time that debate was held, for clarity if nothing else.

Charity in Guernsey get the profits from the Christmas draw – a States decision to that effect was made in February 1989 after a trial which began in 1984.

There was no talk within the report then of extending this to profits from other draws, which eventually became the scratch cards with which we are now familiar.

In fact, going back to 1971 when the Guernsey Lottery was established, it had the objective of providing special projects to benefit the community – but did not state what.

The following year, the States agreed that the money raised should go towards the building of a leisure centre at Beau Sejour and ‘its establishment’.

The Channel Island lottery was created out of the Guernsey and Jersey draws in 1979 and money has continued to be ploughed into supporting the leisure centre – decades after it was ‘established’.

With funding of Beau Sejour under extreme stress, in 1997 the States decided that the lottery profits should be topped up with a fixed grant from general revenue – and directed the Gambling Control Committee to report to the States on future uses of the lottery proceeds.

Scouring the Billets from then until 2004 when the committee was abolished, it appears that report was never made.

Culture and Leisure has warned about the funding deficit at Beau Sejour – in 2011 it received £150,000 in lottery money, up £50,000 from the year before.

In comparison, last year the Association of Guernsey Charities received £214,000 to distribute among its members – so there is greater weighting of the profits towards government in Guernsey than there is in the UK.

The issue of where the money should go is not black and white. Beau Sejour is, in itself, a community centre, designed to provide affordable facilities.

The main problem is that the department has never managed to prove it is being run efficiently and therefore deserves the amount of cash thrown at it, whether from taxes or lottery money.

Should lottery cash go to the Sports Commission or the Arts Commission, for instance, or do they get ruled out because of their links with government, especially in the latter’s case?

The demand from charities for extra funding is clear, far outstripping the lottery profits – this year alone there were applications for £625,000-worth of funding.

One potentially concerning aspect of Culture and Leisure’s new-found interest in the future of lottery cash is its stated intention to make proposals concerning the future of the unclaimed prize fund.

Given the disgruntlement that surrounded the summer draw’s profits heading for States coffers, what would the reaction be if it decided to use the quarter of a million pounds floating around in unclaimed prizes to cover gaps in Beau Sejour’s finances, for instance?

It could, of course, be considering topping up the funding to charity or leaving it as is – a contingency for future prizes.

Culture and Leisure will be looking to lottery funding elsewhere as it makes its case for what happens to the money in Guernsey.

It may be that it can make the case for Beau Sejour to continue to benefit – remember, it is coming back to with proposals on the centre’s future management structure after it was identified by the Financial Transformation Programme.

It may also be that it can demonstrate that charities in Guernsey are getting as good a deal as elsewhere because of the mix of other causes that receive money.

Perhaps the money needs to be spread further.

At the moment we are in the dark – as the sceptical public was when asked to dig deep for the summer draw.