The National Lottery is coming under greater scrutiny at this time because there are greater demands for transparency on where the money goes. With the Olympics due in London in 2012 there have also been calls for extra money to be taken from the Lottery Fund to pay for athletes and help fund the Olympic stadia.
Last autumn I carried out a survey amongst a proportion of my constituents asking them to comment on the use of National Lottery funding. From the responses it is clear that many people do not approve of the Lottery or are not interested in its function. But for those who regularly or sporadically buy a Lottery ticket great importance is placed on where the Lottery income goes.
For all people the idea of buying a ticket is most certainly to win a major prize but many feel that it is also a form of giving money to charitable good causes in this country. The original idea of the Lottery was to raise money for specific areas – arts, heritage, sport and charity.
On the whole people were supportive of the Lottery giving money to ventures for community use, such as for young people, or sporting development if they felt it was being used sensibly. However, a good number felt that the Government was using more and more Lottery money to fund organisations and services that should really come under general taxation- a process which has been dubbed “additionality”.
Somewhat surprisingly, given that all the respondents to the survey were from central London, most felt that the Arts and British film industry should be able to survive without money coming from the Lottery or other tax incentives.
The overwhelming response was that more money should be spent on good causes in this country and certainly not abroad. It was felt that some smaller charities and other community organisations had lost out in recent years and that the original remit behind the Lottery had ceased to exist as the Government used more and more money from the Lottery to fund public services.
Many people raised the subject of Lottery funding for the 2012 Olympics. Some felt money should go towards it and others felt that the Government should be footing the bill and not the London council taxpayer. A large majority believe that if Londoners are going to have to pay for the Olympics through increased Council Tax bills then they should be given something in return such as priority booking or tickets for one event. A significant minority of Londoners still regard the awarding of the 2012 Olympics to London as a regrettable decision not least because of the potentially uncapped costs.
My constituents and I seem to agree that the vastly increased government control and direction over the distribution of lottery funds is not right. I regard it as unacceptable that money is withheld from the original, deserving causes in order to be channelled into areas that should be covered by general taxation. The flouting of the additionality principle has. I believe, fuelled the faltering confidence that the Lottery now enjoys in the public’s mind.
Here in Westminster there is a strong belief that there should be a strict focus on directing lottery receipts back to those four original causes – arts, heritage, sport, and charity in this country. Most importantly the results from my survey show that the majority of voters in my constituency want to see a transparent system with regards to Lottery awards.