The National Lottery should be run from the North as part of Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda, Tory MPs have declared, amid anger over an alleged Southern bias in the allocation of its funding for good causes.
Seven Conservatives, led by Alexander Stafford, the Rother Valley MP, have written to the Prime Minister ahead of the decision to award the next franchise of the Lottery, due to be announced by the end of this year.
The MPs argued that Camelot, the Watford-headquartered company that currently holds the franchise, does not provide value for money to the British taxpayer.
They pointed to a 2017 National Audit Office report which said that increases in the company’s profits “have been proportionately greater than increases in both Lottery sales and returns for good causes”.
Camelot has seen its profits soar from £29 million to £78 million in the decade up to 2020.
The MPs also highlighted a 2018 report from the Public Accounts Committee that said “good causes lost out when the Gambling Commission renegotiated the licence with Camelot in March 2012”.
In their letter, they said: “Camelot has been sucking money away from good causes and funnelling it into the pockets of its shareholders… 2021 should be the year that the Gambling Commission finally sweeps away the dead wood and reinvigorates the National Lottery’s soul and purpose.”
Mr Stafford criticised the National Lottery Distribution Fund (NLDF), which allocates lottery grants to good causes, over the South being awarded almost 70 per cent more funding than the North since the Lottery’s creation in 1994.
The South has benefited from £12.4 billion of lottery grants, while the North has been given £7.3 billion towards health, education, environment and charitable causes, his analysis of published grants data showed. The NLDF, which falls under the auspices of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, must pay more attention to the North, he said.
Mr Stafford and fellow “Red Wall” Tory MPs Brendan Clarke-Smith, James Daly, Simon Fell, Jonathan Gullis, Mark Jenkinson and Jacob Young called on Mr Johnson to award the next franchise to a company based in the North.
They said this would “help redress this systematic imbalance and create more jobs in constituencies like ours; ensuring that the National Lottery finally lives up to its name”.
Writing for The Telegraph on Wednesday, Mr Stafford added that the move would also be “an important step in restoring trust and reminding my constituents that the National Lottery is there for them too”.
The licence competition to replace Camelot after 2023, overseen by the Gambling Commission, is under way, with first submissions already handed in.
A Camelot spokesman said: “We deliver huge value for money to the whole of the UK. Last year, £1.8 billion went to good causes and over £940 million went to the Government in Lottery Duty – compared with £78 million in profit, making the UK National Lottery one of the most efficient in the world. And, for 27 years, we’ve been based in Watford and we’re proud to call it our home.”
The Telegraph contacted the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for comment.