The Chair position of the National Lottery Community Fund has been filled on an interim basis with the appointment of Paul Sweeney by DCMS.
A veteran civil servant, Sweeney was assigned the role by DCMS Secretary Lucy Frazer to Chair the fund for 12 months until 1 August 2024, giving the department time to make a permanent appointment.
Sweeney takes on the position ahead of major changes for the National Lottery, with Czech-founded multinational operator Allwyn due to take over the next 10-year licence from long-term steward Camelot.
This marks the end of Camelot’s three-decades-long- tenure as National Lottery licence holder, having operated the lottery since the company’s foundation in 1994. To better facilitate the transition and clear some legal challenges, Allwyn acquired Camelot earlier this year from the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Fund (OTTP).
The Fourth National Lottery Licence contest saw good causes raised repeatedly as a major talking point, if not the biggest talking point. Notable events saw Olympic athletes answer questions from MPs on the effectiveness of National Lottery funding for their training.
With the firm due to take the reins from Camelot in February 2024, Allwyn has asserted that good causes funding will be central to its leadership. With a public spotlight having fallen on this area, Sweeney will be conducting some vital functions in his interim position.
The incoming interim Chair’s career has predominantly been in not-for-profit organisations in Northern Ireland, having most recently undertaken trustee roles at several such groups focusing on regeneration, culture and young people.
However, he has gained experience of the lottery sector via his tenure as Chair of the National Lottery Community Fund’s Northern Ireland Funding Committee, coordinating investment in good causes in the region.
Further back in his career, Sweeney was Director of the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust between 1987-1994, supporting community-based self-help initiatives, before joining the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) in 1994 on secondment.
Starting as a community development and reconciliation adviser, he later assumed the roles of Deputy Secretary in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, Permanent Secretary in the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure and Permanent Secretary in the Department of Education.
DCMS affirmed that Frazer named Sweeney as interim Chair following consultation with the Commissioner for Public Appointments and in line with the Cabinet Office’s Governance Code on Public Appointments.
Under the Governance Code, Sweeney was required to declare any ‘significant political activity’ he may have been involved in over the past five years.
This includes holding office, public speaking, making a recordable donation or candidature for election, none of which have been declared by the interim Chair.