Shropshire Council has rejected the idea of a community lottery for our county. The idea, which I proposed in December 2017, was to create a county wide lottery framework to allow small organisations such as village halls to sell lottery tickets. Although the council’s deputy leader claimed then that the council was already looking at a scheme, it is only now that we have the council’s view a lottery is not on.
I don’t buy its reasons for rejection – that it will divert money from other causes and that it will encourage gambling. The real reason is that it will not generate an income stream for the council and the council is not going to help communities unless it can make a profit. Shropshire Council has become obsessed with major building and investment schemes in the north of the county and has left rural communities behind.
The council says it will displace money from other voluntary fundraisers. But all the evidence is that community lotteries allow new funding to be raised – each ticket sold is for a specific cause such as a village hall or scout troop. Details of how it might have worked were set out in my previous blog.
The council also says it is concerned about its position in promoting gambling. That is an extraordinarily high moral stance for a council that has gambled more than £50 million on shopping centres and now allows its tenants sell Lotto tickets and booze. It’s a surprising high moral stance from Conservatives, the party that in 1994 gave us the National Lottery – which has since been used to plug gaps in public funding.
Steve Charmley says that income from community drops off after the first year. Although there is always a small drop after the initial rush of enthusiasm, I haven’t seen any data that suggests that this makes community lotteries unviable – they are self-funding through administration fees.
The real reason, as the deputy leader admits, is that a scheme like this doesn’t make a penny for Shropshire Council. It is there for the benefit of the community. It is a way of helping communities help themselves. But Shropshire Council has never done that. It’s resilience agenda [helping communities help themselves] has died off. It has removed community support officers from across the county. It charges our pioneering Ludlow Young Health project £2,000 a year to use the Youth Centre because it is not prepared to contribute to young people’s mental health and wellbeing. It doesn’t make a profit.
Shropshire Council has become obsessed with major building and investment schemes in the north of the county and has left rural communities behind.
Question from Councillor Andy Boddington
In December 2017, I put a motion to council calling for the chief executive to investigate the case for a community lottery. The deputy leader responded that work was already in progress. The minutes record: “On being put to the vote this motion was carried by the majority.” After 18 months, what progress has been made on examining the case for a community lottery?
Response from the Deputy Leader – Steve Charmley
Council officers have undertaken a lot of research in respect of community lotteries since the motion was passed in December 2017. On 5th February 2019 the council hosted a meeting involving Councillor Boddington, a member of the Shropshire VCS assembly and Aylesbury District Council officers who presented their experience of running a community lottery. Aylesbury were the first local council to implement a lottery scheme in November 2016.
Aylesbury officers described how their council is responsible for application of Local Authority Lottery license from the Gambling Commission, appointing an external lottery management company, establishing the criteria for what constitutes a good causes [sic], marketing the lottery scheme, approval of new good causes as applications are submitted on-line and authorisation of monthly cause payments and quarterly Gambling Commission submissions.
Community lottery schemes do not generate an income stream for the council. They do raise income for good causes having deducted administration and operating costs. The VCS representative raised questions regarding the impact a new lottery scheme may have on Shropshire based VCS bodies and charities who raise funds through other means. Another question raised related to the council’s position in terms of promoting gambling.
Evidence suggests that local community lotteries can make a reasonable amount of money in the first year after an initial marketing campaign. Income levels, however, tend to drop off after this. Shropshire Council would need to spend quite a lot of money on marketing and would be competing with other local and national lotteries in terms of ticket sales.
I do not believe, having taking [sic] into account the concerns raised by the VCS sector, there is a case for a community lottery scheme in Shropshire.