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The Big Lottery Fund's 'Reaching Communities' programme* is proving misnamed, with communities finding much of the ...
The Big Lottery Fund's 'Reaching Communities' programme* is proving misnamed, with communities finding much of the money out of their reach, says the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action. Instead, the voluntary and community sector is subsidising local government, with funds that in previous years went to VCS groups now going to councils.

'There is a massive demand for Reaching Communities funding,' says Kevin Curley, chief executive of NAVCA. 'This is, after all, the main 'demand led' Big Lottery Fund programme. The trouble is that the funding for all these 'communities projects' is the same that last year went only to the voluntary and community sector. And now only 60 to 70% of funds goes to the VCS!

'As the Big Lottery Fund itself admits, Reaching Communities has proved very popular with applicants. With ten times more money applied for than there is funding available, this means that many excellent VCS project applications are now being rejected. Instead, we are seeing local authorities cream off much of the cash.

'It is excellent to see local authorities invest more in sports facilities for young citizens and primary schools invest in new community buildings. But surely funds for these schemes should come from central and local governments' own resources - not from lottery funding, thereby depriving VCS groups of the funding for innovative schemes. What has happened to the principle that lottery funds are for additional community facilities, not to substitute for taxation to pay for public sector activities?

'We believe that local community and voluntary groups will be shocked and upset to hear that they are being turned down so that local authorities can obtain lottery funding to do things that they should be doing anyway.'

* BLF's 'Reaching Communities' programme


1. The Big Lottery Fund has announced that seven months into its Reaching Communities programme it has received over 4,500 outline proposal forms, worth£1bn, against funding of£100m available for the first year. After three decision-making committees, one in four fundable projects is being awarded a grant.

Among early beneficiaries of Reaching Communities are Leeds City Council, which has received£51,953 towards the redevelopment of an outdoor games area and a primary school for a multiple community use building on school grounds.

2. NAVCA - the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action - is the national voice of local voluntary and community sector infrastructure in England. It has 360 members working with 140,000 local community groups and voluntary organisations that provide services, regenerate neighbourhoods, increase volunteering and tackle discrimination, in partnership with local public bodies. NAVCA was previously known as NACVS.

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