Liz Kendall has said that she will order a fundamental review of National Lottery funding to divert more cash to deprived young children if she becomes Labour leader.
The woman bidding to succeed Ed Miliband said she would conduct a root and branch review of how the Big Lottery Fund hands out money in order to boost the “criminally neglected” area of early years services.
Ms Kendall said children from the poorest backgrounds are already 15 months behind their peers when they start primary school. The review would look at rebalancing some of the £650m in Lottery funds handed out every year.
A source insisted that the MP was not targeting a particular strand of the arts that could receive less money, but that she was “determined to be forensic” in order to free up funds for early years services. However, large cultural institutions based in London, such as the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre and the English National Opera, are major beneficiaries of Lottery funding. A recent report, entitled Rebalancing our Cultural Capital, found that Lottery funding to these three major institutions, as well as Sadler’s Wells and the South Bank Centre, has totalled £315m.
The Big Lottery Fund pointed out that it only delivered 40 per cent of National Lottery Funding for good causes and that other funders distribute the remainder, including the Arts Council England, which funds the major arts and cultural organisations mentioned in the report.
Ms Kendall said the goal would be to provide above-inflation increases to the “criminally neglected” area of early years services, amid a climate of fiscal constraint across public services.
The MP for Leicester West has made tackling the gulf in life chances between rich and poor a key theme of her leadership bid, addressing the issue in her first major speech at Leicester’s De Montfort University.
She also signalled that increasing investment in pre-school services and support would be a greater priority than Mr Miliband’s pledge to cut university tuition fees.
Ms Kendall said many children from more deprived backgrounds fail to benefit from higher education subsidies because of the way they fall behind in the first years of life.
She added: “Children from the poorest backgrounds start school 15 months behind where they should be in terms of their development and play catch-up for the rest of their lives. They struggle to get five decent GCSEs, let alone have the chance to go on to college or university.
“We cannot expect young people to reach their potential if they fall behind right from the beginning.”
The Big Lottery Fund currently distributes money that is charitable, connected with health, education or the environment, under direction from the Government.Reuse content