Scouts in Northamptonshire have expressed their ‘delight’ at the county council’s plans to scrap proposals to charge them for the use of schools.
The £56,000 subsidy for uniformed groups, such as the Scouts and Guides and youth clubs, had been included in the draft budget to be axed for 2019/20.
But after a vigorous campaign to save the subsidy, with scouts and guides being seen at all recent county council meetings, the authority has relented and decided to drop the proposals.
Dean Smith, the county commissioner for the Scouts in Northamptonshire, said: “Obviously we’re delighted that this will preserve our use of schools. We’re also delighted that we were listened to, and we acknowledge that.
“We were very surprised that it was involved in the budget in the first place as no-one told us and we weren’t consulted about it, we were told by the media.
“But we galvanised around a pretty simple message which was a positive message about developing young people. We needed a little help and that’s what we asked for. The schools are an obvious place for us to use, but without the grant it would have been perilous. So we think it’s good news both for us, but also for the county.
“I’ll be going back to a council meeting to formally record our thanks.”
Had the subsidy cut gone through, the groups were worried that rents would have significantly risen to hire the schools for use, and it could have lead to cash worries or a need for significant fundraising.
The cuts were also recommended to be dropped from the budget by the council's cross-party overview and scrutiny committee, which said it would have an 'adverse impact on the community and on future demand for statutory services’.
Speaking at a press conference this morning, county council leader Matt Golby said: “It’s about stabilising the finances and laying a strong foundation for transferring our services over to a new unitary authority, and reinvesting into the services that people have told us we need to and that they care about.
“We are scrapping plans to charge for the use of schools by uniformed and community groups, and that was something that a lot of members fed back certainly to me and to the chief executive that this was something that people were very concerned about.”
The press conference also revealed that the council was fully utilising a government dispensation to raise council tax by an additional two per cent, meaning that the overall rise will be 4.99 per cent. Normally a referendum is required if it is proposed to be raised by more than 2.99 per cent. The increase will raise £5.8million.