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Poorest areas lose twice on lottery

What you bet does not reflect what you get. Diane Spencer reports on what schools receive from the nation's weekly flutter. Britain's poorest regions are losing out in lottery awards to education, even though they are the highest spenders.

Ulster folk gambled away the equivalent of Pounds 137.76 each last year and got back less than a penny per head in money for schools from the sports and the arts councils. By contrast Londoners spent a mere Pounds 80 a year each, and got back 32p per head for education, according to figures from the Department of National Heritage and OFLOT, the lottery regulator.

In the East Midlands, people spent Pounds 97.81 and in return 15p a head was spent on education. People in Yorkshire and Humberside bet Pounds 107.11 each with a return of 46p per head.

Hugh Bayley, Labour MP for York, claimed the figures showed how the grants, too, had become a lottery. He said each region should keep its own share of the money and a local committee should decide which of the five good causes it should go to: the arts, sport, charities, heritage, the Millennium Fund.

The figures, compiled up to April, also showed that Scotland and Wales fared well. Scots spent Pounds 100 each with education profiting to the tune of 37p per head. Wales invested Pounds 108 per head, with 69p for schools.

However, next year the picture could change as new lottery rules will come into play.

Last autumn the Sports Council expressed concern abut the uneven spread of awards. It said that poorer areas could not raise the 35 per cent it demanded in matching grants.

Earlier this year, Virginia Bottomley, the National Heritage Secretary, allowed the council to target deprived urban and rural communities, ruling that projects could receive up to 90 per cent funding.

Mrs Bottomley also changed the rules so that lottery cash could cover more than just a project's capital costs. The Arts Council is preparing proposals for a scheme to give grants to young people to help develop their artistic talents.

Margaret Bolton, lottery communications director at the Arts Council, said bids under Pounds 100,000 had always needed a 10 per cent match.

She pointed out that the council was not allowed to solicit applications and inevitably well-established institutions had been geared up to apply. So far, the Sports Council has made more than 260 awards to the education sector, totalling around Pounds 40 million. The Arts Council has awarded Pounds 11 million to 53 schools and colleges.

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