Gloria De Piero: Funding for the arts and sports is not a lottery. It's a stitch up
New figures show that the big cities are the main winners when it comes to Lottery funding with the former industrial areas missing out.
The dream of a big house, nice car and exotic holidays inspire millions of us to buy lottery tickets and scratch cards each week.
Research carried out nearly a decade ago showed that skilled manual workers are more likely to buy a ticket than managerial and professional workers.
The National Lottery was dubbed ‘a tax on the poor’.
That however, is a fact that we can no longer confirm, even though we suspect it, because we do not know where lottery tickets are bought.
Why does that matter? Because without that vital piece of information, we do not know how much more some customers are putting into the National Lottery than they are getting out of it.
Every year the Department for Culture, Media and Sport publishes how much cash every Parliamentary constituency receives in lottery funding for projects.
It probably won’t surprise you to find out that it is not the poorest areas of the country that receive the most lottery cash.The ten constituencies which receive the most money are always dominated by the UK’s biggest cities; London, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Bristol.Meanwhile former coalfield and industrial areas come lagging way behind.
The figures speak for themselves: in 2015, my constituency of Ashfield received about £930,000 of lottery funding, ranking it 362 of 650 constituencies.
Nottingham South, just down the road, got £64.8m the same year, the third highest in the country.
In the same year, Manchester Central received £31.6m of funding, while nearby Wigan got just over £3m, ten times less, but actually a lot more than Barnsley East, which was awarded less than £90,000.
The pattern repeats for examples in many other cities and the former industrial towns lying just a few miles outside them.
This has of course been noticed before.
The Industrial Communities Alliance has published articles on the issue and has found “evidence of systematic bias against certain types of areas and communities” with regards to the distribution of lottery funding.
Their research suggests that industrial areas receive only 60% of the national average funding per head.
It put the cumulative loss of funding to Britain’s industrial communities at around £3bn a few years ago, and this will only have increased since then.
We have asked that Camelot not only publishes data on where lottery tickets and scratch cards are bought, so we can see the differences between this and where lottery funding is given out, but that it also does more to close this gap.
In this age of austerity and cuts, former coalfield and industrial communities need lottery funding more than ever to support projects that could otherwise be at risk of closure.
People in these areas will often feel no benefit of the prestigious lottery funded arts, culture and heritage offerings in nearby cities – some of them have never even visited their nearest city.
It is time the way lottery funding is allocated was changed, so that these areas are no longer disadvantaged and are given the share of the money they deserve.
It is only fair.
* Gloria De Piero is the Labour MP for Ashfield