Please don’t raise our rents!

Please don’t raise our rents!

Whilst the Big Society is the good-feeling political buzzword of the moment. Yet some councils seem to be lacking the will to live up to this ideal and are planning to use rent increases to cover the cuts that are being applied to their budgets – and this impacts directly on Scout Group, with some massive increases being enforced which could drive Scout groups out of volunteering but will definitely require an increase in subscription fees.

The Scout Association takes no money from the public purse. It raises all of its income through subs, fundraising and trading – and its volunteers contribute 37 million hours of their own time. It is a model of what the Big Society represents – people volunteering in their own communities to benefit everyone and not requiring public money to keep running. Scouting provides a hell of a lot for not very much, which is something we just don’t shout about enough.

Scouting brings a huge amount of benefits to society, but asks nothing in return except for fair and affordable rents – not free, not frozen, but fair and affordable. As Chief Scout Bear Grylls says

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.

This is agreed with by Local Government Minister Bob Neil, who is also Vice President of Bromley and District Scouts:

The Scouts provide an immense contribution to local communities across Britain. They are a great way for young people to develop skills and learn about social responsibility.

I agree with the Chief Scout, Bear Grylls. It is unacceptable for councils to unilaterally hike charges on scout groups without consultation. This is a false economy, as without scout groups, local authorities and the police would end up spending more money on tackling anti-social behaviour and on paying for the services which Scouts provide for free.

To which the Guardian replies, quite rightly:

Thanks Bob. Not much to disagree with there. But you’re the boss. If councils are killing off scout groups, what are you going to do about it?

The government should prevent local authorities from putting charities out of business (or should be volunteering?) through raising rents like this. Come on Bob and Eric – put your foot down!

My Group is one of those affected by the rent increase. The rent increase will require us to increase subs – we have no alternative, as we simply cannot afford to meet the £592.50 extra every year otherwise. But we are now tenants of Watford Community Housing Trust rather than Watford Borough Council; but the council are going to charge another local Scout Group only 25% the rent that the Housing Trust want to charge us. One is fair, but the other certainly isn’t.

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