New blow to Big Society: Scout Groups hit by cuts


8:00 am - March 17th 2011

by Newswire    


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The Scout Association (TSA) revealed today that thousands of Scout Groups across the UK are being subjected to enormous rent increases by local councils threatening the future of the Movement and the voluntary work it does in communities. In response to this unfair “tax”, TSA is today launching a campaign urging councils to take a stand to protect local Scouting, by setting fair and affordable rates for Scouts in their area. The campaign is called “Don’t Raise Our Rents!’.

Traditionally, councils have only charged nominal rents for the land on which Scout buildings are based, or for the use of local authority buildings by Scout Groups. This has been in recognition of the important role that Scouts play in communities. However, many rents are set to spiral in 2011 as local authorities seek new ways of raising revenue in the tougher financial climate.

In total, at least 2,000 Groups are vulnerable to rent increases with many warning that they will have to reduce outdoor activities, increase subscriptions for parents or even close as a result.

The contribution of adults working in the Movement, all volunteers, is equivalent to £380 million paid services for young people annually. Throughout the UK, Scout Leaders give 37,620,000 hours of their time each year providing a range of exciting and challenging activities for young people, raising their self esteem and encouraging them to contribute to their local communities. 55% of young people involved in Scouting also volunteer for local community projects, twice the national average.

The Don’t Raise Our Rents campaign is therefore calling on local councils to make sure that any rent increases placed on Scout groups are fair and affordable. For more information, visit the campaign website.

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Reader comments


Your link to the website is broken.

That might explain the 50% hike in subscription fee that my son’s scout group has just been forced to make, after struggling for several years to avoid increases.

Here’s another local blow to the big society: one or more of our local council-run leisure centres faces closure (currently at consultation). These are places that, among other activities, provide facilities for volunteer sporting clubs, where 100s of children attend every week learning habits of fitness.

Many of these leisure centres are in relatively deprived communities with some problems of youth disorder. They are very well used, with the popularity of the indoor facilities creating a spillout effect of good pro-social activity in the parks outside. Skateparks and playground equipment have been provided by partnerships between statutory bodies and local volunteer fundraising. Perfect big society stuff, now undermined.

3. Chaise Guevara

Who is responsible for this irritating habit of calling any charge you disagree with a “tax”? First the lottery was a tax. Then speeding fines were a tax. Now, apparently, rent is a tax.

We need a UK branch of “The rent is too damn high party”. (I thoroughly recommend searching them on YouTube)

As Doug mentions above, the link’s broken – the site can be found here: http://www.dontraiseourrents.org/

My group are currently haggling with our local council over a lease renewal and we are strongly expecting to end up paying more based on the experience of other local groups. At the end of the day the sky won’t fall in but last year one of our events raised £1500 for a local children’s hospice and this year are doing another to raise funds for an orphanage in Sierra Leone. If our rent goes up significantly we may have to run such fundraisers for ourselves to ensure that we keep a roof over our heads meaning others will lose out.

7. Roger Thornhill

Oh no, prices go up! Inflation bad!

Oh well. Since the scouts wouldn’t allow my (nonreligious) children to pollute their organisation, presumably they can do without my help.

One of the things that worries me about the ‘Big Society’ in general is that it will mean services end up being provided by religious rather than secular organisations, and hence being provided only to certain privileged groups (the Scouts model) or only with strings attached (‘here’s your soup – now let’s all say grace’). If the withdrawal of this de facto subsidy from an organisation serving only religious children helps protect funding for services that are open to children of all faiths and none, that doesn’t strike me as a bad thing.

They are Scouts. Can’t they just pop up their tents in the countryside?

‘In response to this unfair “tax””

The removal of a subsidy is not a tax. It may well be that the subsidy is well worth paying but call it what it is.

@8 Despite some inexplicable commitment to a form of words when you join, the scouts isn’t remotely religious, and my atheist son has no problem whatsoever fitting in to all of the brilliant things that they do. I think you have to swear some sort of alleigance to the queen and mutter some twaddle about God, but, then we all have the invidious status of being the subjects of the queen (i.e. of the leader of the Cof E) whether we are in the scouts or not. I have my fingers crossed when I contemplate my status as ‘subject’, and my son crossed his fingers during the joining ceremony. Not a big deal. And no grace said.

It does strike me that the anti-religious have to work quite hard to fuel their sense of grievance at the genteelly persecuting nods and smiles laid on by the Church of England.

Ah, actually, Scouts don’t have to make any god-involving promise any more, according to theis story http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article532492.ece and they don’t even have to swear loyalty to the queen.

13. Planeshift

They should have been prepared for this eventuality.

14. Chaise Guevara

@ 13

LOL

Claire @ 11

Obviously an atheist can join an organisation that officially excludes atheists by lying about being an atheist. Similarly, a Christian could join an organisation that officially excluded Christians by lying about being a Christian, and a gay person could join an organisation that officially excluded gay people by lying about being gay, and a Pakistani person could join an organisation that officially excluded Pakistani people by lying about being Pakistani. And to some of them it might seem like ‘no big deal’. Still, we wouldn’t tolerate state subsidies for a comparable organisation that officially excluded Christians, or gay people, or Pakistani people. Why tolerate subsidies for one that officially excludes nonreligious people?

The fact that the Scouts aren’t ‘remotely religious’ in terms of what they get up to makes matters worse, not better. I’ve no objection to a Buddhist Meditation Group being open only to Buddhists, or a Chinese Student Society being open only to Chinese students (obviously); but it would be pretty damned objectionable for the local Amateur Badminton League to start requiring people to swear they were Buddhist, or Chinese, or gay, or atheist before joining, because playing Badminton has nothing to do with being Buddhist,or Chinese, or gay, or atheist. And the same goes for scouting.

Claire – oops, didn’t see that last post. Confused now, as everything I can find on the web suggests the religious element of the promise is still mandatory. Still digging.

Claire –

Apparently that Times article was simple mistaken.

http://atheism.about.com/b/2005/06/24/boy-scouts-atheists-in-britain.

Claire –

Apparently that Times article was simply mistaken.

http://atheism.about.com/b/2005/06/24/boy-scouts-atheists-in-britain.

20. Chaise Guevara

@ 19 G.O.

I recall (hopefully accurately) a story from a while back about two girls who successfully sued after the Scouts rejected them on the basis of gender. I’m surprised the same doesn’t apply in this situation. Or perhaps the issue just hasn’t been tested in court?

I think Claire’s right to say that atheists can be a bit melodramaic about anti-atheist tendencies in the UK (indeed, I think most people, Chaise Guevara included, are generally too easy to offend and inclined to make mountains out of molehills). At the same time, though, I think there is a double-standard, written into law in some cases, and that ideally it should be fixed.

I certainly don’t like the idea of your children being excluded from an activity that interests them due to religious bigotry.

At the bottom of this post I’ve put a few notes about scouts and religion and atheism (I am a scout leader as my user name suggests), deliberately as I think that this thread has somewhat gone off the point.

The point is that this is not just about scout groups. The Scout Association just happens to be a group that has the resources to start shouting a bit about this. More widely this is about everyone else that uses facilities that they rent off the local council. It’s the sports clubs that rent pitches, and the OAP groups that use school halls, it’s the am dram groups that use back rooms at the town hall, it’s the community farm that rents a patch of land. All these similar groups and a hell of a lot more are going to be effected by local councils (having to??) raise rents on the land or buildings or rooms or whatever other facilities it is that they use.

All these groups provide something to a community, they provide things for people to do and places to meet and provide means of giving people that extra something that enriches their lives. And we have a government that through its “Big Society” message appears on one hand to encourage that but with the other hand implements policies that just make it so much harder for that to happen.

So whatever your opinion on which specific organisations local councils should give some support to you do need to look far more widely at who this is going to effect, you may just find that you have some unlikely allies.

Anyway. just to clarify on the scouts/atheism point.

As a young person in scouts you have to make the scout promise. There are variations on it depending on your particular religion or if you are non British national (the word “queen” get’s replaced by “the country in which I am now living”) but it does not ask you to swear allegiance to anyone or anything, what it actually says is “do my duty to God (or Allah or my Lama or some other variation) and the Queen”.

There is no definition of what that “duty” is and this is quite deliberate in scouting world wide as it covers so many religions and cultures. If a scout was to say to me that they were an atheist and I would simply say that all your “duty” is is to be respectful of the views of others and therefore that by making that promise you are not lying.

Adult leaders are expected to have at least a vague religious inclination. I know a considerable number that are atheist but have simply scribbled C of E on the application form.

As someone said above we are not a particularly religious organisation in terms of what we get up to. Part of the programme does encourage members to come to an understanding of their own faith as well as those of others but it certainly does not involve any preaching or pushing of particular faiths (or shouldn’t do). To be honest mostly the programme involves getting muddy in the woods.

So yes, scouting is a quazi religious movement and if a particular group has refused to allow a child to join because they had no religious belief then the leaders at that group need a bloody good kick up the arse.

In time I suspect this will change. Our friends in the Girl Guides changed a few years ago, I don’t recall exactly how their constitution and promise changed but if effectively dropped any objections to atheism while still maintaining a spiritual side to the programme.

I suppose I should add for the record that I am a (very liberal) Christian and also 100% committed republican.

22. Chaise Guevara

@ 21 Akela

I agree with you as regards the meat of this discussion. We’ve wandered off into “liberals debating principles” mode, but that’s not all that relevant to the issue at stake (although whether or not specific Scout groups are religiously biased might infuence whether they, specifically, deserve preferential treatment). You’re right in saying that this is another case of the government paying lip service to the idea of volunteerism while simultaneously undermining it.

Sorry if I’ve hijacked the discussion; of course there is a ‘bigger picture’ here to do with costs going up for all sorts of community groups, clubs etc, not just the scouts. I think my point is relevant to the original post, though, as well as raising wider questions about how liberals who believe in a secular state should be responding to cuts affecting religious organisations.

Akela: it’s good to know you wouldn’t exclude a child you knew to be nonreligious in practice, but I can’t take seriously the idea that an atheist could swear to do his or her duty *to God* without lying. It doesn’t matter how vague your definition of ‘duty’ is – it’s the reference to God that’s the issue.

“if a particular group has refused to allow a child to join because they had no religious belief then the leaders at that group need a bloody good kick up the arse.”

I’m glad you think so, but when the official line taken by the national organisation is that “If someone stands up and says ‘I’m an atheist, I do not believe’, then that person is not eligible to join the Scout Association,” it doesn’t look to me as if it’s local groups that are in most need of such a kick!

Chaise – no court cases I know of, though I believe the Equality and Human Rights Commission were asked by the BHA and NSS to look into this. Not sure what conclusions they came to.

When the scouts admit atheists and agnostics I’ll have more sympathy.

I was in the scouts when I was younger yet cannot return as a leader to help young people in my community because I don;t know if God exists or not.

If you discriminate, don’t expect favours.

25. Matt Wardman

“Oh well. Since the scouts wouldn’t allow my (nonreligious) children to pollute their organisation, presumably they can do without my help.”

… and there was me thinking that the nonreligious lot were against labelling.

:-)

26. David Hodd

“Oh so this thread is something about scouting is it? – Well all I have to say about them is they don’t like atheists, so I will say that”.

It’s great making a post on a discussion forum. With just a few strokes of the keyboard you can casually dismiss the efforts of 78,000 adults to develop kids’ self confidence in their physical, social and spiritual potential, their participation in society and a love of the outdoors. And you dismiss all this with almost no effort yourself.

Spot the person making a difference?

I know there are atheists and republicans in the Scouting Movement. Most people recognise the movement is a net cause for good, and it is better to support them than castigate them over a detail of POR. This Wednesday, I take my Dorset pack to our nearest Mosque. This will be a great and new experience for them. One part of the effort adult leaders make is to encourage kids to explore what sort of spiritual path they might be on.

The big society – or rather, the Good Society – is under threat from so many of the actions of this government. Let’s scrutinise that threat rather than add some more from the Daily Mail of the Left.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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    [...] New blow to Big Society: Scout Groups hit by cuts | Liberal Conspiracy – In total, at least 2,000 Groups are vulnerable to rent increases with many warning that they will have to reduce outdoor activities, increase subscriptions for parents or even close as a result. The contribution of adults working in the Movement, all volunteers, is equivalent to £380 million paid services for young people annually. Throughout the UK, Scout Leaders give 37,620,000 hours of their time each year providing a range of exciting and challenging activities for young people, raising their self esteem and encouraging them to contribute to their local communities. 55% of young people involved in Scouting also volunteer for local community projects, twice the national average. Tags: recession cuts bigsociety [...]





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