Chief Scout Bear Grylls has thrown his weight behind Flintshire Scouts petition calling on Flintshire County Council to reverse a decision to charge local groups business rates.
More than 7,500 people have now signed an online petition including adventurer Grylls who said in an update on Twitter:
Please help these great Scouts and sign this petition. I know councils are under pressure but it’s not right that scout groups should be targeted by removing the 20% discretionary funding relief. People give time to support the development of young people and should be supported.
The Scout Association which is a not for profit organisation is run by volunteers, it provides ‘essential skills and opportunities for the young people of the local area.’
The groups automatically qualify for 80% mandatory rates relief due to their charitable status with the local authority giving a further 20% discretionary rate relief.
The council decided to withdraw funding relief for charitable sector organisations from 2017 onwards in a bid to save money, the petition states.
Flintshire district is made up of 16 Scout groups which over 900 youngsters from the county regularly attend, each group either owns or rents a building, they will now face a bill of between £300-£570 each in annual rates.
The petition calls on the council to reconsider its decision, it states:
‘This petition is to express deep concern at Flintshire County Council decision to charge business rates against the Scout groups in Flintshire and to ask them to reconsider that decision.’
‘It is a decision taken by Flintshire County Council in 2017 to charge business rates on the Scout groups in Flintshire even though their own publications on the matter state that they would ordinarily not do so as the Scout Groups meet the criteria for 100% discretionary rate relief.’
‘Scout groups are not businesses. The Scout Association and Scout groups are registered as charitable organisations and are entirely run by local volunteers who give up their time and put energy into providing the adventure of Scouting to young people across Flintshire.’
Speaking to Deeside.com, Richard Hebden, Flintshire Scouts District Commissioner said:
“The county’s Scout groups are being penalised by the local authority, they should be supporting charities that give our youth a better future.
Scouting is open to boys and girls, men and women from all backgrounds and financial positions, Flintshire Scout groups can’t afford the additional charges and the impact could, in turn, mean an increase in subscription fees.
We are asking Flintshire County Council to reconsider its decision on this matter as we are not a business and in recognition of the valuable contribution Scouting provides to our communities.”
The Welsh Government states that a property may qualify for ‘relief of up to 100% at the discretion of the local authority if your property is occupied by a non-profit making body and used for purposes which are, charitable, philanthropic, religious, educational purposes.’
The petition will be delivered to Cllr Hilary McGuill at the end of January – to read more: change.org/stop-flintshire-scout-groups-paying-business-rates-charges