Scouts fear for future after rent hike

Preparing explanatory letters to every prospective and current councillor are scouts Jake Sharratt (left) and Curtis Farrar with Scout Leader Pete Sandry
Preparing explanatory letters to every prospective and current councillor are scouts Jake Sharratt (left) and Curtis Farrar with Scout Leader Pete Sandry
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BLACKPOOL Scouts today fear their future is in doubt after council bosses hiked their rent by 13,900 per cent.

The funding bombshell was dropped on the historic youth organisation as they worked to negotiate a new lease on its Bispham headquarters with Blackpool Council.

For more than 30 years, the Scouts have paid just £10 a year in ground rent – but this has now been upped to £1,400 – to the horror of leaders.

They say the pressure to claw in rent money will mean less activities for young people and could even see some groups disbanded.

Today the group has launched an urgent appeal to Blackpool Council for fair rents

A letter has been sent to every councillor and election candidate lobbying them to help fight their cause.

Steve Williamson, district commissioner for Blackpool Scouts said: “We have limited means so it is likely we’ll have to consider the closure of some groups.

“The increase to rents we are expected to find is not fair or affordable and contradicts the Government’s desire for a more active civil society.

“Scouting has been running for 100 years and with cuts to children’s activities because of budget constraints, the service we provide is more important than ever.

“The burden of having to fundraise will take masses of time away from activities for young people which is what Scouting is about.

“Asking parents to give more will mean some children will simply be priced out of attending.”

Mr Williamson believes the higher fee has been imposed as Blackpool Council will not give the discretionary rate relief element of the business rate for the land.

Two other Blackpool groups and a group at Norbreck are expecting similarly astronomic rent rises when their leases end.

Scout Groups across the country are now holding campaigns for fair rents.

The Bispham Group paid to build their own hut on the land 30 years ago and say more than 120 children and 40 adult volunteers use it weekly.

Darrell Shuck, assistant group leader at the Devonshire Road headquarters, said: “Finding these rents could mean the end of many activities and even the annual gang show as money will be so tight.

“All leaders give their time for free so children can enjoy outdoor activities and learn brilliant skills which will help them in the future.

“If we were paid, it would cost £750,000 nationally to the public purse.

“We do so much for the community too, it would be a tragedy if our groups had to stop.”

FOR MORE ON THIS STORY SEE MONDAY’S GAZETTE