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With the National Lottery licence up for review West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock puts the case for fund-raising lotteries

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Much is being written about the upcoming review of the National Lottery licence at present, the existence of which provides many millions of pounds to good causes each and every year.

However, in this country we have another highly successful - and complimentary - society lottery sector, which itself is a major source of funding for good causes.

In 2019/2020 alone, these charity lotteries, as defined apart from the National Lottery, raised over £367 million for good causes.

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock
West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock

Players of these lotteries such as the People’s Postcode Lottery have supported grassroots charities across the country, not least in West Suffolk. The People’s Postcode Lottery alone has supported many small organisations working at the coal face of West Suffolk communities, who have received over £100,000 in unrestricted grant funding. The REACH Community project which helps people move out of poverty, the Little Ouse Headwaters Project which reconnects people with nature, The Brandon Community Association which brings facilities for communal use to Brandon, The Country Trust’s food discovery program and the Suffolk Cinema Network which looks to bring better amenities to the local area have all benefited from funding. Not to mention, providing four local schools with nature grants for outside learning - the list goes on.

Last year I co-hosted a funding workshop for charities alongside the People’s Postcode Lottery, to help volunteer organisations and community groups in West Suffolk. The session gave good causes advice on how they can apply for funding. Unlike most funding bodies, the People’s Postcode Lottery does not shy away from helping charities gain access to their funding and actively support groups through the process of getting funding. In my experience this is rare and often the opposite is true, which speaks to the good intentions as well as the good nature of these Charity lotteries. Thanks to the People’s Postcode Lottery, tens of thousands of pounds have helped many good causes in West Suffolk and have made a real difference to our communities.

Support for local charities is one of the reasons why, back in 2018 when I was Culture Secretary, I put forward proposals to increase the amount of money charity lotteries could raise. Historically, charity lotteries had been capped at an annual income of £10 million, which was stymying charity fundraising in unnecessary red tape and effectively limiting the amounts raised for community charities, amongst other problems. Removing some of this red tape and increasing the income cap to £50 million has freed up funding for third party organisations and the important work they do in communities across England, Scotland and Wales. All at no extra cost to the Treasury.

The reforms have allowed the People’s Postcode Lottery to up their charitable contributions to 33% of every ticket sold, while also doubling the funding available to grassroots charities and paying over 60 larger charities a one-off bonus last year, worth a total of £31 million. In some cases, this unrestricted funding has literally helped local charities keep the lights on, set against the challenging backdrop of the Covid pandemic.

Charity lottery sales limits have been in place since the 1960s and while they do not stop the sector growing, they do mean growth has to happen in a ludicrously cumbersome fashion – heavy with red tape and added administrative costs, and with reduced flexibility to fund charities. Future reforms aimed at increasing the cap on sales further will no doubt open up more funding for good causes across West Suffolk and the UK.

With the Government currently reviewing the success of this rise, the question has rearisen – should we increase the cap again, from the £50 million we initially raised it to, to a number closer to £100 million? The key worry is the impact an increase in numbers for society lotteries will have on the National Lottery which itself provides vital support, not least the phenomenal work it does supporting British athletics. However, I have been reassured by official Gambling Commission statistics that show both sales and the returns to good causes for both the National Lottery and society lotteries are at record levels since the limit was increased to £50 million.

Given the evident success of reforms to date and the benefits already delivered to good causes large and small, I believe this would be a beneficial way of increasing the number of supportive projects in our communities. With the excess strain on public finances at present, it seems like a good idea to me.

-- Matt Hancock is MP for West Suffolk