Scouts launch campaign against council rent rises

Some groups will have to reduce activities or close, says Scout Association

Cubs on an outing
Cubs on an outing

The Scout Association has launched a campaign against rent rises demanded by councils for land or buildings they use.

One troop in West Sussex faces a 300-fold increase from £5 to £1,500 a year. Another in Surrey is being asked for £10,500 a year instead of £135.

The Don't Raise Our Rents campaign website will highlight scout groups that are experiencing increases, provide a national petition for the public to sign and include a toolkit for scouts and leaders to run local campaigns.

The Scout Association says at least 2,000 groups are "vulnerable to rent increases", with many warning they will have to reduce outdoor activities, increase subscriptions for parents or even close as a result.

The charity said in a statement that councils had traditionally "only charged nominal rents for the land on which scout buildings are based or for the use of local authority buildings by scout groups".

It said that, although it understood councils were looking for new ways to make money, imposing such a burden on scouting risked "the long-term future of groups who undertake valuable voluntary work at next to no cost to the public purse".

The television adventurer Bear Grylls, who is the UK's Chief Scout, said: "It is completely counterproductive 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 areas. I hope that all those groups affected will get involved in this campaign and help their local councils see sense."

Baroness Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said in a statment: "For decades councils have let scout groups operate on peppercorn rents, and where possible they will continue to do so.

"However, Government cuts have left town halls facing a £6.5 billion deficit over the next year and many may have to re-examine these long-standing arrangements to see if they’re still viable with this unprecedented squeeze on budgets.

"The scouting movement is an important part of British tradition and culture, giving young people great opportunities and creating strong links between them and their communities. Where possible town halls will continue to support it, and they should rightly carry out full and frank consultations before changing rent arrangements as well as look at other options to help groups."

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