Public funding for the community sector is sinking fast. Our youth budget is miniscule. Discretionary grants are evaporating. Faced with similar gaps in funding, some councils have launched local lotteries giving up to 60% of the ticket price to local good causes chosen by residents. It is time that we considered running a lottery for Shropshire. At next Thursday’s Shropshire Council meeting, I will be asking council officers to investigate the case for a countywide community lottery.
Ten days ago, the Shropshire Star reported that more than half of the services run by voluntary organisations in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin are under threat. In its leader column, the Star said:
“We have a situation in which the work of the voluntary sector is experiencing heavy demand because of various welfare changes and spending cuts, and yet the same spending squeeze is hampering and even destroying its ability to respond.”
I don’t think that we will see a quick return to local government giving the financial support that communities, volunteers and charities need to provide services that are vital for the wellbeing of our county.
That means we must wire support for our local causes differently.
Most voluntary services already are great at raising funds. But many rely on a contribution from public funds to ensure that they are stable. Once you commit to proving a service, you need to keep on going. It is often vital that the local authority backs a community service to give it the street cred to raise money and get matched funding.
That’s why I think a council backed lottery could be a good idea.
If we decide to go down the path of launching a Shropshire lottery, we will not be the first to do so.
Aylesbury Vale is a Buckinghamshire council that represents 166,000 people. Its Vale Lottery raised £75,000 in its first year and is on course to raise around £100,000 a year now it is established. Shropshire alone has a bigger population than Aylesbury Vale. Joining forces with Telford would make sense as many of our good causes cross the local political border. That would give us a potential market that is nearly three times bigger than that of Aylesbury Vale.
The Vale Lottery was the first council lottery to be established. Its model is attractive because purchasers get to chose where 50% of the ticket price goes. That encourages volunteers to go out and sell the online tickets. Another 10% goes into a general good causes fund for the area.
It costs money to run anything and 17% goes to administration and 3% is sacrificed to the Treasury in VAT.
We are not talking about big stakes in this model of a lottery. It costs a quid to enter the Vale Lottery. Purchasers have a 1 in 50 chance of winning a prize ranging from three free tickets to £25,000.
The bigger stake, of course, is that we could raise new money for community causes at a time when Shropshire Council is looking more and more like Mr Scrooge.