£425 million pounds diverted from charities in order to fund the London 2012 Olympics may not be repaid for two decades. This news has been greeted with outrage by the charities that rely on grants like the Big Lottery Fund in order to carry out the good work that they do.
Back in 2007 when it was announced that lottery funding would be redirected to the Olympics, Tessa Jowell, the then Olympics Minister, responded to criticism that they would be starving 10,000 organisations of resources by promising that when the Olympics assets were sold, the money would be returned to the charities. This defused the argument for a time. However, John Penrose MP, the Olympics minister, has announced that with land sales due to take place over a period of 25 years the money taken from the charities could not be returned until the mid 2020’s.
The Directory of Social Change’s (DSC) head of policy and training Jay Kennedy has told One&Other he is anxious that over the projected time of repayment, there will be roughly three general elections and any number of reshuffles in the Cabinet and government policy. He said, “It leaves too much wiggle room for that deal not to amount to anything.”
A large part of the problem is that there was never an explicit deadline set of the money to be returned, but Kennedy feels that it is ridiculous for the government to delay for that long. This consternation is further compounded by the fact that the Olympic under spend is going straight back into the Treasury, when this debt to our most deserving causes is still outstanding.
Angela Portz, Chief Executive of York Council for Voluntary Service, said “Our national body NAVCA backs this campaign and so do we. The Olympics is a great national event with lots of local support but it would be great to see the under-spend returned to the Lottery so they can give much needed funding to the very small, grassroots organisations who are the bedrock of local communities. These are difficult times for lots of small voluntary groups and they need all the help they can get”.
The Directory of Social Change (DSC) has launched a campaign of their own, calling it the Big Lottery Refund, to try and reclaim the money they describe as being “raided” from their coffers. They have chosen August 12 as the deadline for return of the funds. They have their own version of the Olympic countdown clock on their website and all relevant details to support their cause here.