Around 80% of the funder’s budget will be decided by English regions, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, a new strategic plan reveals.

Photo of Bodiam castle
Bodiam Castle, East Sussex

The Heritage Lottery Fund has announced that more than three-quarters of its funding decisions will be devolved across the UK, as well as unveiling a new identity as the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF).

The funder’s strategic framework for 2019 to 2024 says that committees and senior staff in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and three newly-defined English regional areas (North; Midlands and East; and London and South) will decide how to direct around 80% of the £1bn set aside to support heritage over the five years. The devolved areas – which previously controlled only half of decisions – will also take full control of all funding decisions of up to £5m for the first time.

The funder said its rebrand was designed to “help people better understand the difference they make when they buy a ticket”.

New policy

The changes are the result of consultation on the organisation’s future priorities, involving more than 13,000 people, including National Lottery players and heritage organisations.

The organisation promises to focus on inclusivity and support for heritage organisations to become more financially sustainable, and have a “simpler, streamlined and more efficient” funding process.

It also says the new strategy will include new models of investment, moving “beyond grants to include loans and partnerships, designed to attract others to invest money alongside the National Lottery”. 

A new funding portal has been created, which will include: 

  • An open programme for any type of heritage project from £3k to £5m, which will be open to any type of heritage project and can be applied for immediately 
  • Campaigns designed to fill strategic needs or funding gaps, such as building digital resilience and organisational resilience 
  • Social investments, such as impact funds and loans
  • Two rounds of major grants of over £5m.

The framework also introduces a requirement for every heritage project to be environmentally friendly; and for greater engagement and support for 13 deprived communities across the UK that have historically been less successful in securing funding.

Local focus

Research has found that National Lottery players are keen to know more about how their money is used, and every organisation awarded funding in the future will be asked to think about how National Lottery players will be thanked and invited to participate in their work.

Ros Kerslake, CEO of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said the National Lottery’s decision to “put people at its heart” had helped the UK’s “wonderful buildings, iconic landscapes, cultural memories and traditions and native species” survive and thrive. 

“Over the next five years, The National Lottery Heritage Fund will inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage, distributing more than £1bn.  

“So we will be making more decisions on funding locally and focusing on the heritage that really matters to people, creating jobs, bringing economic prosperity and improving people’s lives right across the UK.” 

The NLHF announcement comes as opinion grows that lottery funding decisions should be more closely related to the communities that buy the lottery tickets. It follows recent calls by the Movement for Cultural Democracy for more devolution and transparency, and for lottery funding distribution to be “returned to the people”. 

Speaking in December, a representative for the movement said such action would ensure a “fair and equitable” access to cultural resources, preventing decisions being made by “anonymous and unaccountable quangos”.