I read a lot of corporate gloss for my job but the front page of the magazine Third Sector made me sit up as it had a piece on how damaging it will be if the Big Lottery Fund is forced to divert money to rescue the Olympics and the overspend. And working in the voluntary sector I am sure the news has blown a few gaskets!
The Big Lottery Fund is the life blood for many voluntary organisations and charities. It has a budget of around of £630million to give to “good causes”. And obviously the Olympics are a “good cause”. The money the Big Lottery Fund distributes comes from the National Lottery. You know, that indirect taxing of working class people who dream that it “could be them” winning the ultimate prize when they buy lottery tickets.
It is estimated the voluntary sector will lose about £315 million if the Big Lottery Fund is “raided” to bail out the Olympics. This means, in practical terms, that the BLF won’t be able to fund any new programmes until 2013 and it would also have to make reductions of around £350million.
Sir Clive Booth, chair of the Big Lottery Fund argues that funding the shortfall, “would have a chronic and damaging effect” on the fund’s mission to help charities and voluntary organisations.
He further argues: “I don’t really see why all the wonderful good cause projects should have to subsidise the Olympics beyond what we have already done”.
Tessa Jowell (Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) has not “ruled out” top slicing the lottery fund but she says that any loss of money to voluntary and community groups should be offset by the “benefits of the Olympics.”
This is repeated again by another civil servant who talks about the “benefits” but goes further by stating that the positive rewards of the Games will “outstrip any effect created by such a diversion of funds”.
Well, try telling that to some voluntary organisation who loses their grant.
But come again? A definition of “benefits” would be useful. I mean, are we talking financial or a front row seat to watch the 100m sprint?
I think charities and voluntary organisations would like to see the dosh to fund them as opposed to some mealy-mouth rubbish spouted by a government minister who can’t control spiralling costs. This will have a serious impact on the voluntary sector as it will hit the most vulnerable and powerless in this society and ironically grassroots sports.
The government bangs on about fitness and health yet it is only too happy take money that is for ordinary sports clubs. The long term damage this could have on grassroots sport is obviously of no importance to the government. Or the fact that the money is being diverted to help spotlight elitism and individualism.
Tim Lamb (The Central Council of Physical Recreation) says:
“We don’t want to be in a situation in five years’ time where those local clubs are threatened by a showpiece event which only a small proportion of the population will visit”.
As Oscar Reyes argues:
“The Olympic Games, whose five-ring symbol is recognised by around 90% of the world’s population, is the mega-event of choice in the bidding race for consumer-oriented development. But the costs of such a strategy are stark, since it can lead to greater urbanization and the deepening of the divide between core and periphery”.
The outlook for London looks pretty stormy, gloomy and debt ridden (just look at Athens who are still paying the cost of the 2004 Olympics).
These potential cuts will have a devastating, long term impact on the voluntary sector for years to come. Grassroots organisations and initiatives will be starved of funds all for an event where only a minority will be able to participate in.