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February 7, 2018

What’s up at Big Lottery?

Outside of the Scottish Government, our sector’s largest funder by a long stretch is the Big Lottery. While the money that it distributes isn’t strictly public finance (although many argue the Lottery is a tax by any other name) there is a close, albeit somewhat opaque, relationship with Scottish Ministers who set some of its strategic direction. And yet it isn’t clear how and where many of its decisions are made. Some recent funding decisions have left communities reeling and now we hear almost 25% of the staff have left the organisation. What’s going on?


Robert Armour, TFN

Big Lottery Scotland has confirmed 22 posts have been shed as part of a major restructuring.

The funder, which has a budget of nearly £60 million in Scotland, offered all staff “voluntary exit” packages which were taken just before Christmas. It leaves the organisation with 79 staff across its Scottish operations.  Part of the ongoing restructure, which has not been made public, will see the funder shift priorities, building on a year-long pilot run across a number of local authorities.

It said it was now working to develop a “greater understanding of the local context” and how “our funded projects contribute across their wider community.” The restructure has raised fears that Scotland’s biggest independent source of cash to good causes could be struggling to maintain current levels of funding due to falling ticket sales.

However, a Big Lottery Fund spokeswoman said: “This restructure has been long planned and helps us to meet our vision to put people in the lead here in Scotland. It is not connected to levels of National Lottery Good cause revenue.” More posts will face redundancy, the funder said, although other posts will be created as part of the restructure.

The spokesperson added: “Over the last decade, we have focused on programmes and themes and we have structured ourselves internally as an organisation in the same way. We are restructuring the Scotland directorate to prioritise the importance of getting closer to communities and deliver our work differently to ensure those National Lottery funds we award are serving communities themselves. Before the restructure we had a staff compliment of 94 FTE posts and after the restructure is complete we will have a staff complement of 90.5 FTE posts.”

Last October Linwood Development Trust lost out on a £1,000,000 application of support from Big while autism charity the Tailor Ed Foundation said last week it will have to shut its doors as soon as March after a £405,000 funding bid was rejected by the Big Lottery.

However the funder said fluctuations in income did not necessarily signal immediate changes in the amount of money it awarded.

“We plan our cash flow over the longer term and awards made now are paid out over a number of years, so short-term changes in income can be managed,” said the spokesperson.

“The fund will continue to work flexibly to ensure that National Lottery funding continues to support charities and communities across the UK.”

Lottery operator Camelot’s half-year results, published last September, show that total returns to good causes in the six months to the end of September were £746.6m, a fall of £36.8m on the previous year.

Big says it has been working proactively with other distributors in response to the income drop.

It said it fully backed Camelot’s review which seeks to re-engage players and improve performance in the draw-based games.

So far the National Lottery has delivered more than £37 billion to good causes across the UK.