Charities fear TW Lotto success may not help them

Organiser Ingrid Pope [pictured] launched Tunbridge Wells Yard Sale last year after seeing a similar event in the US.

Funding cuts made by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council have not been compensated by their new lottery, according to community groups.

TW Lotto was approved in 2016 and introduced last summer as a way for the authority to still support local services as central government reduced its grants.

A spokesman said: ‘As central government grant funding to the council has been severely cut over recent years, savings have had to be made.

‘From 2018/19 the council will receive no further central government grants.’

Players pay £1-per-week for one ticket to participate in TW Lotto, 50 per cent of which will go to a ‘good cause’, as selected by the player.

An additional 10 per cent will be put into a general pot and divided between community groups registered, of which 62 had signed-up at the last count.

Among these are The Bridge Trust, DAVSS, Headway and The Stroke Association.

Latest figures suggest the online initiative has been a hit, with 535 players having registered by the end of January. And since the first draw was made in July last year, £16,519 has been raised for good causes.

Lottery organisers are predicting an ambitious 30 per cent increase in players year-on-year until 2020/21. TW Lotto is forecast to make £43,368 in total cause revenue by the end of the 2019 financial year and £73,258 two years later.

A borough council report states: ‘The launch and early operation has been very successful.’

But, despite this, charities and organisations that rely on Town Hall funding say they are still fearing closure.

The Times reported last December that the borough council’s combined support of £255,000 to 13 groups could be cut by 2020 as government grants ceased.

Among those set to be hit are Tunbridge Wells Shopmobility, who currently receive £12,000 a year.

Charity Chairperson Caroline Riddle [pictured] said: ‘Following a meeting with the council in March we were informed that as from 2019-2020 our grant will be further cut.

‘Whilst no long term decisions have yet been made by our trustees, the grant offered makes it impossible for us to provide the same level of service, and we may even have to close down.

‘We have been providing a vital service to shoppers in Tunbridge Wells since 1995 and are extremely disappointed with the decision.’

Ms Riddle said that whilst TW Lotto has proved popular ‘with some’, her charity has not felt a benefit with their beneficiaries often not able to sign-up online to nominate Shopmobility as their chosen ‘good cause’.

So far Shopmobility is raising only £286 a year through the lottery from players nominating it as a ‘good cause’, which leaves the charity relying on a share of the general pot.

‘Charities such as Shopmobility struggle as in the main our users are of the age when they prefer not to or don’t have access to the internet,’ Ms Riddle continued.

‘They would rather have a paper ticket and the opportunity to purchase these with cash. This is not possible with TW Lotto.

‘At the meeting it was discussed that the general pot from the Lotto was smaller than expected as most supporters nominate their chosen charity when buying tickets.’

Rod Dann, Curator of Cranbrook Museum, said the group currently receives £4,500 in grants but had not entered TW Lotto, because he didn’t feel it could benefit.

He commented: ‘With regards to the council’s report it reads very well, but don’t they all around election time?’

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