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Our policy moles were privileged to overhear the new Culture Minister’s induction briefing at the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) - things look bright for the Big Lottery Refund campaign.
|Aide ||Good morning Minister, welcome to DCMS |
|Maria Miller||Where are the bodies?|
|Aide ||I beg your pardon Minister?|
|Maria Miller||The bodies, where are they? Y’know, the skeletons in the closet? Where’s the black file? I know Jeremy Hunt, and if there’s one thing I’m going to find taking over from him, its bodies. I don’t want any Fred Michels popping up to bite me in the you-know-where.|
|Aide||Erm, I don’t think so Minister. There are a number of, erm, live issues we need to run through if that’s what you are asking?|
|Maria Miller||Live? Ha! Go on then, what has he left behind?|
|Aide||Well, you remember the Olympics?|
|Maria Miller||You mean that thing I’m going to get none of the credit for, but will be my waking hell for the next 12 months as people start to ask awkward questions about legacy, and how much it cost, and why no nobody turned up to the inner-city dressage championships?|
|Aide||Erm, yes…, well you might put it like that.|
|Maria Miller||Well, spit it out, what’s the problem?|
|Aide||Well, we sort of borrowed some money to pay for the stadium, and the velodrome, and most of the other infrastructure and the people we, erm, borrowed it from sort of want it back.|
|Maria Miller||Oh marvellous, and who pray tell did we borrow it from? Dodgy tax-avoiding billionaire donors or a dodgy tax-avoiding bank?|
|Aide||Worse Minister I’m afraid, much worse. We took it from charities and community groups.|
|Maria Miller||[Frowns concernedly…] When you say “took”, you mean in the sense of reallocating a budget right? I don’t care about that, everyone loses out somewhere along the line when we chop and change our budget priorities, that’s why we nicely present things as realigning budget priorities.|
|Aide||Oh no Minister, I wouldn’t bother you with something as trivial as that. We actually, well, the Government pretty much stole it from the Big Lottery Fund (BLF).|
|Maria Miller||[PHFWW spits out skinny latte] Wow, I knew Hunt was a, well, you know, but stealing from the Lottery to fund capital infrastructure projects? Didn’t we go on the rampage against the last lot for doing that every five minutes?|
|Aide||Yes, well, actually it wasn’t Mr Hunt, it was stolen by the last lot, although we actually spent it…well, we think…actually we’re not exactly too sure how much we’ve spent…|
|Maria Miller||So you’re telling me I’m going to have to go up in front of some Committee of MPs and tell them we don’t really know what we’ve spent on the biggest, most high-profile international event this country has seen in decades!?|
|Maria Miller||Ok, so clearly you need to sort that out pronto – for now what is the official line on this?|
|Aide||That we’ll pay it back when we’ve sold the Olympic assets, sometime in the 2020’s, maybe all paid back by 2039 at the outside…|
|Maria Miller||Right - and who owns those assets?|
|Aide ||Well…we’ve kind of given them to Boris under the guise of the Localism Act.|
|Maria Miller||Oh spiffing. So we’ve basically promised to pay back a shedload of money by selling something we don’t even own anymore which will probably never be sold by somebody else, whom we don’t control.|
|Aide||Ah…pretty much…and the thing is, the pressure to return the money to BLF now is rising internally. It’s a serious constituency issue for most MPs and we need to do something quickly.|
|Maria Miller||[Sighs, sinks back into chair, rubs eyes, looks up at ceiling] Ok, let me think for a minute. How much do we actually owe them?|
|Aide||£425 million, directly to the Big Lottery Fund…|
|Maria Miller||£425 million?! Is that all?! Bloody hell, we waste that much duplicating funding and volunteering portals…I thought it was at least a couple of billion the way you were going on! |
[sits upright at desk] Tell you what we’ll do, crack on with sorting those Olympics accounts – guaranteed there will be billions of slippage in there. While you’re at it, write Big a cheque for £425m and get it in the post today. Quick - before this turns into my first Ministerial firestorm and I’m drowning in angry letters, we’ll do what the last lot should’ve done in the first place.
We’ll need a good press release too, how about “Maria Miller Moves Millions back to Charities”?
|Aide||Excellent Minister, I’ll get right on it [moves quickly to exit door]|
|Maria Miller||[shouts after] And I want a full list of the rest of the bodies by 5pm today…|