Last week, Crawley MP Henry Smith used his website to encourage his constituents to apply for the Postcode Lottery’s Dream Fund. This opportunity exists across the UK. The fund consists of £3M of which one allocation will be £1M and the balance is much smaller sums, all intended to help realise dreams for local communities. The intention is to encourage joint working between charities and good causes, encouraging collaboration and offering sums to help finance projects which groups have long wanted to deliver but have lacked the money to achieve. I can think of a number of ideas that would meet these criteria in Brighton and I am sure many other people could do the same. If you do wish to follow this up the website www.postcodedreamtrust.org.uk is the place to go. However the reason for mentioning this post by Henry and possibly other MPs is that whatever the impact of £3M could have on a local community, imagine if that sum was multiplied by 10 or 100 or even 142 times. Then there would be a much greater opportunity for charities and local communities to work together and many more dreams realised. I did point this out to Henry but so far he has not responded!
The multiple of 142 or actually 141.666 leads to a sum of £425M which is a figure that should resonate with all MPs although it should embarrass both Labour and Conservative Party’s so perhaps that is why Henry has ignored my message. The £425M was ‘borrowed’ by the Labour Government back in 2007 when they were running short of funds to help pay for the Olympics. The total amount taken from the Lottery at that time was £675M of which the lower sum was from the Big Lottery fund. This ‘loan’ was heavily opposed by the Tory opposition and the promise demanded and made was that sum would be refunded at the end of the games in 2012. Needless to say this was not honoured by the then Tory Government and here we are 5 years later still waiting. Lottery funds are deemed by those who instigated the Lottery to belong to the nation, not the Government. Some are set aside to fund sport, some for the Arts and some to help meet good causes that help address social need in our nation. This latter category is where the ‘Big Lottery Fund’ and the ‘Postcode Dream Trust’ come from. A total of £1.085Bn of lottery funds was used to pay for the Olympics altogether, including £638M which came from the Big Lottery Fund. Of this £213M was part of the original plan so campaigners calling for a return of money have primarily focused on the £425M even though that is a long way short of the full sum.
If the rate of interest that is currently applied to student loans was applied to the £425M from the date on which it was due to be repaid, then the sum owed to good causes by this Government would now be £576M, so perhaps that is the sum we should be demanding. That would represent around 192 times the Postcode Dream Trust. If Henry thinks £3M could make a big difference to residents of Crawley, he and his colleagues could achieve a great deal more by demanding that the Government repays the sum that was promised and which is already 5 years late.
This late repayment can also be considered from a couple of different angles. When I am not writing this column or my daily blog, I work for a company which regularly enters into trading arrangements with other companies and public bodies. In order to enter these agreements we must provide references from trading partners and our bank along with our accounts. This process checks if we pay our suppliers and deliver our services on time. A failure to do so would limit our ability to trade. The same must be true of the Government as it seeks to create new trading arrangements with nations outside the EU. The fact that the UK Government has a 5 year bad debt, even though it is for a very small sum compared to its annual budget must surely damage our prospects of securing good trade deals with the US and New Zealand. Also the Government proudly sponsors a Prompt Payment Code for businesses that wish to trade with it. The 2000 or so code signatories including the Government are obliged to “pay creditors within the terms agreed at the outset of the contract without attempting to change payment terms and additionally, signatories must undertake to pay creditors within a maximum of 60 days”. It appears that this has been overlooked with the Big Lottery Refund, it is time for Philip Hammond to pay up!