Scouts to lobby MPs over 'rain tax'

First protest in Scout Association's history

The Scout Association is to lobby Parliament for the first time in the 100-year history of the scouting movement in protest at a new method of charging by water companies.

Other voluntary organisations, including sports clubs, village halls and churches, will join the protest on 15 July, which is St Swithin's Day. The Bishop of Nottingham and former England rugby union player Brian Moore will be supporting the initiative.

Four of the 10 water companies have so far adopted the new tariff, which charges according to the amount of rainwater that drains into sewers rather than by means of the old rateable value of properties.

Some voluntary organisations have seen their bills increase by more than 1,000 per cent. Stella Creasy, head of campaigns at the Scouts, said paying for water bills would cost each scout group about £500, which amounted to about a quarter of their annual running costs.

"Scout groups will go to the wall unless something is done," said Creasy. She said one scout group near Manchester was paying more than a Sainsbury store under the new system, which has been dubbed the ‘rain tax'.

The protesters want water regulator Ofwat, which recommends water companies adopt the new system, to come up with an alternative.

"It's crunch time," she said. "Either Ofwat resolves this or politicians could step in with primary legislation."

In the House of Commons this week, Conservative charities spokesman Nick Hurd asked third sector minister Angela Smith if she intended to intervene.

"Three months ago, I asked the previous minister whether he would consider a moratorium, at least until an impact assessment was carried out," said Hurd. "He said that he would speak to colleagues across the Government, but we have heard nothing and time is running out."

He  asked Smith whether the new team at the Office of the Third Sector would "consider a moratorium or the idea of a special social tariff, or will they continue the policy of doing nothing?"

Smith replied: "After three weeks in office, I do not have a final answer and I am sure that he will understand that I want to look into the matter."

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