Proceeds from dormant assets could transform communities and support the third sector post-Brexit
Scots charities fear losing a share of a £2 billion windfall after the UK government refused to reveal how money from the new dormant assets fund will be spent.
Fears have been mounting that the government’s refusal to disclose details of the fund means much of it could be syphoned off by government departments even before good causes get a share.
Last year the Dormant Assets Commission identified £2bn of unclaimed cash that could be freed up and distributed to good causes.
In its report the commission said the sum had the potential “to transform the charity sector, helping to improve communities and change lives”.
However despite the commission compiling its report in March, and mounting pressure from charities, the government has remained tight lipped how much – if any – charities will recive.
Third sector organisations are calling for established funders, such as the Big Lottery, to administer the cash in a move which the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) says would guarantee that cash was “distributed fairly across the UK and also to the widest variety of charities and community and voluntary groups.”
Concern over the future of the fund increased after ministerial changes within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport ousted civil society minister Rob Wilson.
Wilson was seen as a driving force behind the move to distribute the cash to good causes.
Martin Sime, the recently retired chief executive of SCVO, wrote to chancellor Phil Hammond in December calling for clarity on the distribution of the assets.
In the letter, which has yet to receive a response, Sime warned against using the cash to fund government departments at the expense of good causes.
He said: “We have had some concerns about previous funding schemes run directly by UK government departments and would be keen to ensure such an approach is not pursued on this occasion.
“To use one example, the National Audit Office’s critical report on the administration of the Libor Fund showed that many decisions were taken behind closed doors, based on direct approaches for money, were uncompetitive and were not subject to auditing to assess whether the funds had been used for their stated purpose or had any impact.”
The letter added that while many charities benefitted from Libor, the decision to restrict applications to only military and emergency services charities meant that a whole spectrum of organisations were left out.
Dormant asset cash comes from, among other things, proceeds from selling off assets used in the Olympics as well as dormant stocks and shares.
One of the biggest assets is the Olympic stadium which has been signed over to West Ham football club which is paying £2.5 million a year rent.
Charities say there has been no greater need for the cash as European funding is set to end post-Brexit.
A spokesperson for the treasury said: “We are to publish our response to the Dormant Assets Commission report soon.”