Charities concerned as government meddles with lottery fund

 The Catholic Children's Society, Westminster, is one of many charities whose board members are deeply concerned about Teresa Jowell's decision to merge the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) and the Community Fund (CF). Her ministry, the Department for Culture Media and Sport, oversees the workings of the National Lottery and seems intent to drive forward with this proposal in the teeth of opposition from voluntary organisations. Director, Jim Richards said: "The NOF brought us the Millennium Dome, is totally controlled by government, and distributes 30 percent of the lottery takings to mainstream services, which in my view should be met from taxation. Whereas the CF's board is an independent one which gives to organisations like the Catholic Children's Society and believes in the principle of "additionally", that is of giving money to projects that would otherwise not happen. The NOF, in contrast, pays for such things as educational and NHS services." As with other voluntary agency colleagues Jim Richards feels that a merged board would look much more like the Government dominated NOF rather than the independent CF. "This is happening without proper consultation, without first having the necessary parliamentary approval and without support of the Board of the CF," he said. In a statement the Society said: 'Commentators have suggested that the mind of the Minister is set and resistance is "futile". However, this approach ignores the legislative process yet to come. This is why the Catholic Children's Society (Westminster) is pushing for, at the very least, certain safeguards." Jim Richards concluded: "If this is to go ahead we will be lobbying for a clear distinction to be made between the two funds, with a 50 - 50 split. It is only in this way that the distinction will be made between funding government projects and giving funds to charities to assist their work in helping the vulnerable. This latter being what everybody thought the lottery was about."

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