It's always great to see Bradford organisations getting funding from the Big Lottery Fund to do great work so this is brilliant:
A project called Improving Your Life, run by Reach Beyond, received £746,345 to convert the empty ground floor of its building in Grattan Street, Bradford, into a community services centre.
The venue, run by the Christian charity, will provide support for vulnerable members of society, including working with charities on homelessness, addiction and mental health problems.
The biggest chunk of this cash is going towards creating the centre with the rest being a couple of years worth of running costs. There's also a welcome cash donation to Bradford Woman's Aid and Cafe West on Allerton estate. Again this is great.
However, there's a problem and has been for a long time. For all the fantastic work funded by the lottery, perhaps 90% of voluntary organisations simply cannot access the funding. This isn't for want of trying or asking but rather because the priorities of the Big Lottery Fund's large grant programmes exclude support for most places and most communities in the UK. It doesn't tell you this, of course:
The Big Lottery Fund is responsible for distributing 40 per cent of all funds raised for good causes (about 11 pence of every pound spent on a Lottery ticket) by the National Lottery - around £670 million last year.
Since June 2004 we have awarded over £9 billion to projects supporting health, education, environment and charitable purposes, from early years intervention to commemorative travel funding for World War Two veterans.
Our funding supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities. We deliver funding throughout the UK, mostly through programmes tailored specifically to the needs of communities in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland as well as some programmes that cover the whole UK.
Whenever I'm talking about raising funds for projects in the places I represent, we always start with the lottery. And, when we get to the larger grant programmes like Reaching Communities, it's clear that there is no chance at all of the communities of Bingley Rural getting anywhere near a decent sized grant. So when Cullingworth Village Hall took a look at these programmes, it was quickly clear that the focus on "disadvantage" will rule the community out from access to the lottery. We need a new hall but the Reaching Communities Buildings theme says this for projects over £100,000:
More than £100,000 if supporting particularly deprived communities (see eligibility checker and exceptions process)
Doesn't look promising does it? Still let's check - there's an 'eligibility checker' into which you just pop the hall's postcode. It says this:
Sorry, your area is not eligible to apply for Reaching Communities funding
And that's it. The idea of a lottery fund supporting voluntary groups the length and breadth of the country is a lie. OK, it's fine that some emphasis is placed on areas with greater need. But to completely exclude a place like Cullingworth from being able to get some lottery cash is wrong. Absolutely wrong.
Let me explain. For reasons I won't detail, the hall has about £500,000 towards a new hall. We know the cost of a new hall - a minimum of £750,000. If the lottery was available to places like our village, that money might be there to make that new hall a reality. A hall that won't cost the lottery another farthing but will serve our community for decades. Isn't that what the lottery was created to do?
The Big Lottery Fund's blurb tells us it "supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities" - except it's only some communities, some places. That blurb also says the Fund delivers "throughout the UK" - I'm guessing that, in the bizarre world of the Big Lottery Fund's board, Cullingworth isn't in the UK. That's the only explanation.
It's time the Fund, and its board, started serving the whole country and every community - started living up to the flim-flam on its website. It's time it changed to doing the job it was actually set up to do all those years ago.