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BLAIR TO ANNOUNCE FAST-TRACK TO LOTTERY FOR COMMUNITY GROUPS

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Prime minister Tony Blair in his speech to the Labour party conference will this afternoon announce the reaction of...
Prime minister Tony Blair in his speech to the Labour party conference will this afternoon announce the reaction of a lottery community chest to speedily provide money for lcoal projects.

Chris Smith, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that changes to the operation of the national lottery would be included in the People's Lottery Bill, to be introduced in parliament later this year. The new fast-track for community groups, however, will be introduced in Scotland within the next few months.

Mr Smith said the fast-track scheme would make a 'fantastic difference' to small neighbourhood organisations such as scout groups, residents' associations and pensioners' groups who want to do a little bit of extra work or introduce a new facility or project with lottery money. At the moment they did not have 'the foggiest idea' which of the lottery boards to go to or how to fill in the forms.

He added: 'It's not just lack of information. It's a complex system. There are many different forms to fill in. There is a lot of information required.

'What we want to do is to streamline this whole process so there is one place where they can apply to and where they can be considered quickly, and where they can get it turned around quickly and get the money quickly'.

The Scottish scheme could be introduced under existing legislation. The Bill to reform the lottery as a whole would put in place a power for the lottery boards to pool a certain amount of their money to create a community chest, which will act as a local fund. The decision on what proportion of funds should be contributed would be laid down in the legislation after discussion with the boards.

Mr Smith said that it was thought that fast-track local applications shold be for o5,000 to o10,000 of lottery money. The limit has not yet been decided.

The Bill would also extend the lottery's purposes to take account of Labour pledges to extend lottery funding for such things as training, homework clusb and mid-career programmes for teachers. But Mr Smith insisted: 'One of the principles which has to remain in place is that the lottery is there to do thngs that are additional to the core exchequer responsbilities'.

Mr Blair is also expected to make new announcements about repairs to, and new equipment for, schools.

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