Outcry at plan to let Lotto ticket buyers pick charities

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Indy Politics

Charities have reacted angrily to government plans to allow people buying lottery tickets to choose the type of good cause they wish to support, warning that thousands of small voluntary groups will lose vital funding.

Charities have reacted angrily to government plans to allow people buying lottery tickets to choose the type of good cause they wish to support, warning that thousands of small voluntary groups will lose vital funding.

MPs and charity executives believe that "unpopular" or obscure organisations will be penalised by the plan to allow people to tick a box on the back of the ticket to show where they want the money to go.

This week, chief executives of 1,400 voluntary groups will be urged to write to the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, to register their concern at the plans.

They believe that high-profile cancer, heart and animal charities will benefit at the expense of badly funded community groups supporting single mothers, immigrants or deprived families.

Stephen Bubb of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations said the proposal, due to be announced next month, was "sinister" and "cynical".

"It is a horrific idea which will seriously undermine the work of the voluntary sector," he said. "There is some important work done by little charities that get no publicity and no support.

"Frankly, this is very cynical and part of the Government's agenda to prop up the work of the state."

The National Council of Voluntary Organisations said charities that already get "the lion's share of funding" would benefit most from the scheme.

It added: "People on the ground don't have a very good knowledge of where the funding gaps are."

The Government's review of lottery funding policy follows anger at the issue of grants for charities supporting asylum-seekers and children excluded from school.

The Lottery Community Fund, one of the groups that distributes lottery money, has been criticised for giving £340,000 to the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC), which has supported asylum-seekers linked to terrorism.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, has ordered a review of the grant to the NCADC and expressed "serious concerns" at the charity's aims. The award has been frozen and is subject to a review by an independent barrister.

But members of the fund's board may walk out if they are put under more pressure by Mr Blunkett on the way they distribute lottery money.

The Community Lottery Fund has been the target of a hate mail campaign since a newspaper attacked the grant.

Staff at the lottery distributor have received abusive letters and visits to their office after the Daily Mail urged readers to vent their anger and published the Fund's office address.

Yesterday, Dr Ian Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North and chairman of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, expressed concern about politicians' intervention in lottery funding.

"Distributors need to be as independent as possible and to keep the political dimension out of funding," he said.

"If the public tick a box, cancer research and heart charities will get all the money. Financially squeezed groups and groups doing work with asylum groups that lose out."

Today, Lady Brittan, the chairman of the Community Lottery Fund, will express concern at the intimidation of staff by extreme right-wing groups.

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