BIG should fund council services, say Welsh local authorities

14 Aug 2013 News

Local authorities in Wales have called on the Big Lottery Fund to rethink its rules on additionality so that it can prop up cash-strapped council services amid ongoing public spending cuts.

Steve Thomas, CEO of WLGA

Local authorities in Wales have called on the Big Lottery Fund to rethink its rules on additionality so that it can prop up cash-strapped council services amid ongoing public spending cuts.

The Welsh Local Government Association, which represents 22 councils throughout Wales, contends that services such as leisure centres support BIG’s aim of improving public health and tackling obesity, yet their future is at risk as local authority spending is slashed.

Last month, minister for local government Lesley Griffiths warned that the Welsh government could no longer protect councils’ budgets as it was facing “unprecedented financial challenges”.

WLGA chief executive Steve Thomas said the Big Lottery Fund should change its constitution so that if it deems local government services to be worthwhile and complementary to charity sector programmes, it could fund them.

He told the BBC: “Facilities like leisure centres are ultimately discretionary under the local government funding framework and yet they contribute significantly to the promotion of BIG aims such as improving health, as well as tackling obesity and other social factors such as alcohol misuse.

“It may be time for the Big Lottery Fund to rethink their existing models and break new ground in public involvement, social investment and above all, making a difference to local communities.

But the Big Lottery Fund said it cannot pay for activities that statutory bodies must provide.

BIG responds

A BIG spokesman said its funding programmes meet the themes, outcomes and priorities consistent with policy directions established by the Welsh government and are devised after consultation with the voluntary and public sectors.

He said that in recent years, BIG has broken new ground by jointly funding programmes with the Welsh Government to support the transfer of assets from public sector organisations to community ownership, and matching European funding to help hard-to-reach groups secure employment.

“However, the Big Lottery Fund does not pay for activities that statutory bodies must provide,” he said.

“As with all of our funding, awards are made to achieve specific outcomes. These outcomes have a strong connection to our mission to improve the lives of people and communities most in need. We constantly keep our practice under review and always welcome contact from community groups to talk over funding needs for their local projects.”

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