The Labour Party and charities have spoken out against the government over its delayed repayment of the £425m it borrowed from the Big Lottery Fund to pay for the construction of the Olympic Park.
The latest criticism is in response to a letter from the Treasury to the Directory of Social Change (DSC) in which Gregg Hands MP, chief secretary to the Treasury, says the National Lottery Distribution Fund ‘is expected to start receiving funds from the early 2020s’, that it is a ‘robust commitment’ and that ‘the Government maintains its position that this deal is fair’.
In 2007, when the government borrowed the funds, it committed to repaying after the Olympics, and this commitment was reaffirmed by David Cameron’s government in 2010.
In the wake of the Olympics, charities began working through the Big Lottery Refund campaign to have the money returned with interest.The DSC criticised the government’s delay in repaying the £425m a year after the London Olympics took place, in 2013, with a video message to the Prime Minister from DSC chief executive Debra Allcock Tyler, in which she said that the Government had ignored the pleas of over 3,000 charities who had already added their support to the Big Lottery Refund campaign.
The campaign is now supported by over 3800 charities and members of the public, and last year successfully fought off a second potential diversion of Big Lottery funds. The campaign argues that instead of waiting to sell off assets from the Olympic Park, the Government can repay Lottery distributors now against revenue from the future sale of assets.
Ciaran Price, policy officer at DSC, which leads the campaign, said:
“It’s clear that campaign supporters and charities across the UK are being fobbed off by the government in the hope that the money will be forgotten about. It is bizarre that the government thinks a repayment sometime in the next decade, after the next election, represents a ‘robust commitment’. The extent of the Government’s attempt to shirk its responsibility is made all the more apparent by revelations of the century-long lease agreement with West Ham United which will see the club pay just £2.5m per year for a stadium that was built using money intended to help society’s most vulnerable people.”
The Labour Party has demanded the immediate return of the money to the Big Lottery Fund. In a statement, Anna Turley, Shadow Minister for Civil Society said:
“It is astonishing that the Treasury deems it acceptable to repay the Big Lottery Fund after 2020, almost eight years after the Olympics.”
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