I WROTE in April 2011 about the rent bombshell which detonated across local Scout groups, and this morning leaders woke up to the grim realisation that their 9-month campaign to reverse the rent hike was over.
The saga, culminating in the submission of a 2,400 signature petition in support of Discretionary Rate Relief for the Scout Association and a 20-minute debate in full council on the 18th of January 2012, saw the Conservative Party vote in support of the petition yet Blackpool Labour vote against, and in doing so they rubber stamped the increase in rent. This brings the total number of petition signatories ignored by the Residents’ Party so far to almost 9,000 following the rejections of the petition for Lauderdale Avenue’s tram crossing and the petition against the illegal mosque on Waterloo Road.
Most people cringe when their gas and electricity rises by 15% each year, but the hike which has walloped the Scout Association sees their peppercorn rent of £10 suddenly rocket by 13,900% to £1,400. This isn’t exclusive to Blackpool’s Scout Association; the same kind of rent increases have been hammering groups all over the UK as councils scrape the barrell looking for cash to fund their legions of pen pushers.
The issue of the rent was apparently raised last time Labour were in power, but nothing happened; no deals were sorted out. Then, before the local election in 2011, council desk jockeys decided to drop the Conservatives in the doo-doo by announcing this blockbuster rent hike. Labour and it’s footsoldiers were very sympathetic to the cause at this time with well known Gazette Labour supporter ‘cardy’ saying;
“This shows that our Tory council have no consideration for the youth’s of today who do not wish to hang around street corners causing trouble.”
I hope those words that you’re eating taste good, cardy!
You would have thought the fact that across the UK Scout Leaders give 37,620,000 hours of their time, for free, towards running their groups and that this equates to around £380m of paid young peoples’ services would tickle Labour’s third sector fancy, but this doesn’t appear to be the case.
Another point that should be raised is that the council surely have more important ways of generating revenue, for instance chasing up unpaid business rates and council tax, totalling millions of pounds. Instead, they are in hot pursuit of worthwhile community groups that don’t do it for the money, putting their futures in doubt simply because they are law abiding and an easy target who they think will just pay up.
Hold fast, don’t pay, then see what they do.