Scout groups will have to “work harder to keep their heads above water” after Flintshire Council withdrew a rate relief scheme.
More than a dozen Scout groups across the county have been hit with bills of hundreds of pounds after the local authority pulled its financial support that covered 20 per cent of business rates for the youth organisations.
The other 80 per cent is covered by the Welsh Government but now groups, including the one at Mynydd Isa, will be hit with charges of £570 for this year.
In Connah’s Quay, the group’s organising committee will have to fork out a further £375 on top of their existing expenses.
Flintshire Council said it recognised the role of the Scouts in communities they serve but “significant budget gaps due to reducing central government funding” and the need to maintain “vital” council services meant a change was being made.
Richard Hebden, Flintshire Scouts District Commissioner, claimed organisations were being penalised by the local authority as a result.
Alan Roberts, a Connah’s Quay town councillor who has been involved with the town’s Scout group since 1958, said the withdrawal of rate relief put further pressure on the committee to find money to provide activities.
He said: “I wasn’t happy about this at all and for us, that £300 is the cost of events throughout the year.
“The kids don’t pay for the running of the building and now the committee have to find that money again from somewhere. We’ll have to work even harder now to keep the head above water.”
Among the groups hit with a fee hike are Penyffordd, which will pay £227, Broughton faces a charge of £494 and Saltney Ferry has a bill of £150, which it fears could rise due to the size of their building.
A Flintshire Scout group leader, who declined to be named, said the impact of the change could mean an increase in subscription fees and a redirection of funds.
Mr Hebden added: “If you consider Mynydd Isa with around 90 members having to find another £20 per head and many families having more than one child in the group it will have a major financial impact on the household purse strings.
“Along with that the opportunities to offer activities will have to be limited as demand on the household budget is squeezed.
“Scouting is for everyone as we cater for all demographics, colour, gender, creed and ability; to increase costs to Scouts will risk its accessibility. Groups don’t cost the council any money, with no bin collections and buildings only used a few times a week.
“More than 300 adults in Flintshire volunteer each week to make scouting great value to create better future citizens which are being penalised by the council.”
Clare Budden, Flintshire Council’s chief officer for community and enterpise, said: “The council recognises the important role charities, voluntary and not-for-profit organisations play in the communities they serve.
“However, the development of a lower-funded scheme from 2017-18 is essential to strike the right balance by continuing to offer rate relief but, critically, also mitigates very significant budget gaps due to reducing central government funding to maintain other vital council services.”
- See full story in the Leader