Lottery grants to deprived areas unfair, claims MP

John Hess
Political editor, East Midlands

image captionGloria De Piero is angry that Ashfield is not getting its 'fair share' of lottery cash

No-one likes being at the bottom of a funding list.

County council leader Cllr Nick Rushton is always anxious to remind me that Leicestershire is at the wrong end of education funding, and that the government needs to take notice.

Now Ashfield's MP Gloria De Piero is less than happy that her Nottinghamshire constituency has joined the "bottom of the funding" league table. In her case, it's National Lottery grants.

New findings have revealed that Ashfield receives the lowest amount of lottery grants in the East Midlands, and among the lowest in Britain. So far, this year it's received £126,197.

The National Lottery says it's taking "special measures" to help areas that are missing out. But Gloria De Piero says former coalfield communities are being unfairly treated.

'A real pity'

"The cash isn't fairly distributed," she told me.

"Coalfield communities are dealt with particularly badly. Ashfield doesn't have a cinema, it hasn't got a lottery-funded museum and I've got a community centre that's facing closure without lottery funding."

The MP's referring to the Acacia Centre in Annesley: purpose-built with a large hall, committee rooms, kitchen facilities and community radio studios. It was made possible by £140,000 in lottery grants over three years.

"It's saddening really," said Peter Clarke, a centre trustee.

"We're a community that's taken hit after hit over the years with the loss of industry and mining.

"This is an area that really needs the lottery grants to help pick ourselves up and back into line with other parts of the country. It's just a real pity."

image captionGloria De Piero has tried to find out how many lottery tickets are bought in Ashfield - she believes it is above the national average

In Ashfield - as in other former coalfield areas - such lottery funding can be transformative. That's why the threat to funding has caused a such political row.

Gloria De Piero is pressing the National Lottery's organisers Camelot to reveal how many tickets are purchased in each constituency. She believes people in Ashfield probably purchase a higher proportion than the national average. So far, Camelot has declined her request.

"I'm really angry about this," she added.

"We buy loads of lottery tickets in Ashfield but we don't get our fair share of cash."

According to figures from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Ashfield was not only bottom of the regional lottery league table, but 612th out of 650 funding areas in the UK.

The city of Leicester is a lottery funding winner. So far this year, the Leicester South constituency alone has received almost £2.5m, 20 times more than Ashfield.

Jeremy Webster offered me a reason why some areas miss out on the funding lottery. He runs dance classes and events for children with special needs at the Richard Attenborough Centre, near the University of Leicester.

"Sometimes the National Lottery can be bureaucratic with lots of form filling," said Mr Webster.

"You have to understand the 'trigger words', the buzz words. You might have the same project seeking grants but if you don't have the right terminology, you won't get the funding."

image captionJeremy Webster from the Richard Attenborough Centre says applying for lottery funding requires experience

As for the National Lottery, it showered me with stats.

The East Midlands has received £1.76bn of lottery funding since 1994, through more than 26,000 separate grants, it said.

"Arts, sports, heritage and community projects in the region have all benefited. Iconic venues such as Nottingham Ice Arena and the National Space Centre have only been possible thanks to National Lottery players," added its statement.

"Nottingham was chosen as the country's city of football and has been awarded £1.6m to get more people playing the sport.

"Ashfield has received £21m through 539 grants. Recent grants include £170,000 to Ashfield Citizens Advice Bureau and £7,300 to Southwell Care Project to provide art workshops for people with learning disabilities."

It's an impressive list, but that's not how Gloria De Piero or the Acacia Centre regulars see it.

Back to the top, and my earlier reference to Nick Rushton and Leicestershire's bottom-place ranking in education funding. He now has one big bonus: the new Education Secretary is a local MP - Loughborough's Nicky Morgan. That can really help when it comes to heavy-duty lobbying.

Gloria De Piero and the people of former coalfield communities may have a longer wait before those lucky lottery funding numbers are back in their favour.