Lottery bonanza over for advisers

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The Independent Online
CONSULTANTS WHO make lucrative sums from organising National Lottery applications are likely to be sidelined as the Government tries to ensure cash goes to the most deserving causes.

Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, will unveil an initiative today that will enable charities and arts groups to make lottery bids without requiring help from commercial consultants. The move follows revelations in The Independent earlier this year that scores of consultants have made big profits from funds that should have gone to hard-pressed arts organisations.

It also comes after the announcement yesterday that the private lottery operator, Camelot, has seen its profits slump by more than 10 per cent because of poor sales of its scratchcards. Camelot said that it was still on target to raise pounds 10bn for good causes by 2001, but ministers said privately that the results added weight to the need to review the firm's contract.

Mr Smith will unveil his tougher stance on consultants when he launches the Government's inaugural Awards for All scheme in Nottingham.

The pilot project, which is expected to be extended nationwide next year, will simplify application forms. The measures should help smaller community organisations to gain grants by relaxing the requirement for large levels of partnership funding.

Consultants charge up to pounds 700 a day for advice to concert halls, artists and theatres. More than 250 arts companies have spent a total of pounds 27m on feasibility studies for lottery projects.

The Independent highlighted the case of the South Bank Centre in London, which spent pounds 2m on consultant fees before its planned project was ditched.

Mr Smith said last night that his initiative was a key part of the reform of the lottery and would be backed by plans to discover why there was such a low take-up of funds in depressed, former coalfield areas.

"The National Lottery must offer something for everyone, wherever they live, whoever they are," he said. "Access to lottery funding should depend upon whether a project will help and benefit the community and not whether someone has hired the best consultants to fill out their application form.

"This is a new scheme involving different distributors, aimed at getting more money into the hands of the small groups, which are often the lifeblood of communities."

It will form a central part of a series of new policy directions for all lottery distributors. Mr Smith has ordered the distributors to shift the focus from building projects to people.

Camelot revealed 14.5 per cent fewer instant scratchcards were sold in the 24 weeks to 12 September than in the same period last year. Its total sales dropped to pounds 2.42bn from pounds 2.46bn.

Its pre-tax profit fell too, as over the six months it made pounds 34m compared with pounds 38.5m in the same period last year. The amount raised for good causes directly from sales rose by about pounds 200,000 to pounds 696.3m. The company's chairman, Sir George Russell, denied the slump in sales would endanger funding to good causes.