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The Scout Association (TSA) revealed today that thousands of Scout Groups across the UK are being subjected to enormous rent increases by local councils threatening the future of the Movement and the voluntary work it does in communities. In response to this unfair “tax”, TSA is today launching a campaign
urging councils to take a stand to protect local Scouting, by setting fair and affordable rates for Scouts in their area.   The campaign is called “Don’t Raise Our Rents!’.

Traditionally, councils have only charged nominal rents for the land on which Scout buildings are based, or for the use of local authority buildings by Scout Groups. This has been in recognition of the important role that Scouts play in communities. However, many rents are set to spiral in 2011 as local authorities seek new ways of raising revenue in the tougher financial climate.

In total, at least 2,000 Groups are vulnerable to rent increases with many warning that they will have to reduce outdoor activities, increase subscriptions for parents or even close as a result. This is already affecting different groups in different ways. The 4th Worth Scout Group in West Sussex has been notified of a 29,900% rent rise, while the 12th Morley Group may close by late Spring because of a near £6,500 increase in its rent bill in 2011.

Other notable examples include:

  • Banstead District Scout Group has received a request for an increase in ground rent from the current £135 per annum to £10,500 from Reigate and Banstead District Council.
  • Barwick in Elmet Scout Group in Wetherby District have used the local school for Scouting purposes for free for over 25 years. The group expect that rate to rise to £100 per week in 2011, increasing their costs by £5000 per year.
  • The 23rd Camberwell Group face a £7,000 bill from Southwark Council in 2011, having rented school rooms for free previously.
  • The 9th North Watford Group is facing an enormous rise in ground rent from Watford District Council from a nominal £7.50 a year to £650 a year

TSA fully understands that councils are looking for new ways to raise money. However, such a burden on Scouting risks the long term future of groups who undertake valuable voluntary work at next to no cost to the public purse.

The contribution of adults working in the Movement, all volunteers, is equivalent to £380 million paid services for young people annually. Throughout the UK, Scout Leaders give 37,620,000 hours of their time each year providing a range of exciting and challenging activities for young people, raising their self esteem and encouraging them to contribute to their local communities. 55% of young people involved in Scouting also volunteer for local community projects, twice the national average.

The Don’t Raise Our Rents campaign is therefore calling on local councils to make sure that any rent increases placed on Scout groups are fair and affordable. From today, those Scout Groups affected, along with those councils raising rents and rates, will be identified at campaign website. The website will provide a national petition for the public to sign, as well as providing Scouts and Leaders with a toolkit to run local campaigns directed at specific councils.

The Scout Association acknowledges the efforts that some councils are already making to keep rents down. TSA hopes that the Don’t Raise Our Rents! campaign will encourage a more consistent approach by local authorities across the UK.

Commenting on today’s launch, Bear Grylls said,

“It is completely counter-productive for councils to charge Scouts such enormous rent increases. These crippling rises jeopardise the future of Scouting and the enormous amount of voluntary work we provide to communities week-in, week-out. We’re not asking councils for money.  We simply ask that they continue to recognise the importance of Scouting in their area. I hope that all those Groups affected will get involved in this campaign and help their local councils see sense.”

David Moreton, a Scout Leader from the 1st Raunds Scout Group in Northamptonshire, said:

“In the last year the hourly rent charged to my Scout Group by the county council has risen by 50%. We have had to raise the costs we charge our Beavers, Cubs and Scouts and also raise an extra £5,000 year to cover these and other increased costs. I know this is not just a problem that impacts on our Group but all those Groups in Northamptonshire that rent facilities from the local Authority. We know times are tough but all we want is a fair and reasonable rent: – these new charges are not fair and reasonable”

There are some councils who recognise the importance of Scouting to local communities and have kept rents at fair and affordable levels.

Success stories include:

  • Chelmsford Borough Council continues to exempt local Scout groups from council tax and charge them £15.00 per year ground rent.
  • The 1st Moss Wrexham Scout group rent a community hall from Wrexham Borough Council.  The rent has increased steadily over the years, more or less in line with RPI, and the group have use of a modern refurbished hall, toilets and a kitchen.  The hall is well lit, heated and cleaned regularly.  The normal rate to hire the room to the general public is £50 per night.  This deal represents great value and annual increases in line with RPI allow groups to budget accordingly.

The Value of Scouting to local communities:

  • Approximately 110,000 adults support Scouting in the UK. (Leaders, Commissioners, parent helpers etc).
  • Scout volunteers give 37,620,00 hours per year to the community.
  • The contribution of all adults working in the Movement is equivalent to £380m paid services for young people annually.
  • Twice as many teenagers involved in Scouting, volunteer in community projects than the national average (55% of young people who are scouts volunteer in their local community compared to 28% of non-Scouts?.
  • It costs the equivalent of £300 to train a Scout Leader, meaning through its activities The Scout Association provides the UK economy with training worth approximately £5.5 million per year.

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