Scout Groups who own their own buildings have been hit with a new charge from the water regulator OFWAT and the water companies. They will now be charged for the disposal of rain water which runs into the drains and sewers on their premises. Some Groups, it would appear, are now being charged over £500 a year and this constitutes, along with the actual charges for water to their headquarters, to around one third of their total yearly budgets!
The Scout Association have, quite sensibly, been campaigning along with other charities to try to stop this policy and to ensure that a social tariff is introduced for all community and voluntary groups. You can read all about it here.
One of the things planned is to lobby MPs, next week on St. Swithun’s Day. As part of this the idea is to get as many Cubs and Scouts there to participate in the event at Westminster Hall. Which is where the problems started!
The House of Commons authorities tried to cancel the event as the Cubs are ‘not old enough to vote’! Obviously this has upset and annoyed a lot of people, not least as MPs and politicians in general have a poor image at the moment! One MP said -
All constituents, regardless of age, should be free to lobby their MPs.
Quite right too! However the new House of Commons Speaker has over ruled the decision and the Cubs and Scouts will be able to attend the event!
The Speaker welcomes the visit by the Cub Scouts to the House of Commons on July 15 and has given permission to allow them to meet MPs in Westminster Hall.
All this has two very obvious points. First is the financial implications to Groups who will suddenly have to find hundreds of pounds to pay out (I’m sure I read somewhere it could be £1000’s for a couple of Groups!). It’s hard enough for these Groups to finance and maintain their own buildings without having to suddenly pay out loads more money for no tangible gain! I am kind of glad we don’t have our own premises when I hear of things like this!
Secondly, what image does it portray of our political system if young people who are not old enough to vote are not allowed to make their point to politicians at Westminster? It could have put them off voting or trying to get involved in making their local communities better places.
At least one of these issues has been resolved. Let’s hope a sensible outcome is achieved for the water billing issue.