The board members of the Big Lottery Fund are re-examining the funder’s policy on additionality and considering whether it is still fit for purpose in the tighter economic environment.
Former Big Lottery Fund policy director Gerald Oppenheim predicts that the principle of additionality – that lottery funding is additional to things that the government should fund – will be severely tested in the coming months as public spending dives and charities look for other income sources to plug the gap.
In an interview with Civil Society just before he left BIG, Oppenheim explained that the basic concept of additionality sounds simple but is actually quite complicated in practice.
“Things that are statutorily funded aren’t always funded because there’s an absolute legal duty to fund them, but often because the local authority has decided it has a discretion and wants to fund something,” he said.
“And after whatever the Chancellor announces on 20 October filters down, the discretionary funding element of local authorities in particular, may dry up. Then of course the issues for BIG will be, will we have a surge in applications as a result and will those applications be asking us to replace funding that’s been stopped in mid-track? And is that the slippery slope – will the statutory funders all just say ‘BIG will take that over’, and cut even more on the back of it?”
Oppenheim presented a paper to the last BIG board meeting asking the members to look at whether the current policy on additionality was robust enough. He said they would keep an eye on the situation over the next few months to monitor whether the number of applications increase and whether that appears to be because public funding sources have dried up.
“If someone was to come to us now, spending review notwithstanding, and say ‘we’ve lost our statutory grant, can you replace it’, we’d probably say no [because it breaches the additionality prinicple],” said Oppenheim.
“But the challenge for the future is what’s going to be lost, and whether it is so important for beneficiaries that actually we should consider it. That’s the important driver – is the outcome so important that we ought to do it even if it is slightly awkward?”
The additionality debate will continue at the next board meeting in January after more work has been done internally to look at the sorts of issues which may arise.