Charities welcome lottery review

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The Independent Online

Arts Reporter

The Government is to monitor the effect the National Lottery is having on donations to charities, it was announced yesterday. The Home Office announced the setting up of a research project to examine the impact after complaints about the damage being caused.

Charities welcomed the move, with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations saying ministers were "responding positively" to concerns. NCVO bosses have warned that charities could have lost pounds 300m since the lottery began last November. Councils are also to be surveyed for their views on the system for allocating lottery cash.

The Home Office minister, Baroness Blatch, said the Government had always been committed to monitoring the effects of the lottery on charities. She said early evidence did not indicate that the there had been a significant effect.

But Janet Morrison, director of policy at the NCVO, suggested that ministers had been pushed into taking action. She said that research so far showed that most fund-raising charities were suffering badly.

Last month the Royal National Institute for the Blind said donations had fallen by a third since November and officials said the charity had been deprived of an estimated pounds 500,000 in the past year.

Camelot, the lottery operator, welcomed the move, saying that claims about the way charities were suffering had so far been based only on anecdotal evidence.

On Monday the National Lottery Charities Board will finally announce its first grants, totalling about pounds 40m. The long-awaited announcement follows harsh criticism that the quango, set up to distribute lottery funds to charity, has spent too much on administration and has been too slow to pay out cash.

The Government's announcement yesterday came as it was revealed that almost a quarter of National Lottery grants had gone to Greater London. Research by the Directory of Social Change shows that of pounds 570m in lottery money awarded so far, more than pounds 142m has been given to the region. The next largest donations have been to Yorkshire and Humberside (pounds 65m) and Scotland (pounds 52m). Greater London gets nearly pounds 21 per person in grants, compared with pounds 10 for Yorkshire and Scotland. Worst off is the East Midlands region which receives pounds 3.50 per person, a total of pounds 14.4m.

The figures are described by the Directory, which carried out the survey on behalf of BBC2's Newsnight, as evidence of a huge disparity in lottery spending. The county that has benefited most is South Yorkshire, which has won almost pounds 53m - or pounds 49.46 per head. At the other end, Bedfordshire has benefited by just pounds 54,072 since grants began in April - equivalent to 10p per head of population.