I've forgotten my password
1st Hextable Scout Group
Join scoutingJoin scoutingnull

Reply to Article in Parish Newsletter 

The dispute with the Parish Council about the hall: our side of the story.

Hextable scout group’s view is that there is no need for the council to be taken to court over the village hall and raise the council tax to pay for the legal costs incurred.

For more explanation, please see overleaf

You may have seen that the parish council intends to raise the council tax. It says it needs to do this to cover the cost of possible court action to resolve a dispute which has arisen with the scout group over whether the council is complying with the legal obligations it undertook in the licence agreement which sets out the terms on which the scout group uses the scout / village hall.

Court proceedings are only being considered as a last resort, because the council has failed, despite many letters since December last year, to provide a reasoned written explanation of its failure to comply with what the licence says about the scouts’ rights to book time at the hall and to store equipment there.

The scout group is ready to discuss any reasonable proposals that help the council to raise revenue while respecting the scouts’ entitlements to use the hall that the Scout group built.

The background is explained below.

The Hextable scout group, active in the village since 1938, raised the funding for the Scout Hall and built it in 1980 on disused and derelict land leased from the local authority for a nominal ground rent, with a statutory right to renew the lease. The building continued as a scout hall for over 30 years. The scouts met the running costs and rented it out to community groups when practicable.

In 2013 the parish council renegotiated the arrangement so that, outside times retained for scout use, the council got the right to use the hall for village purposes or to rent it to others - in effect obtaining the part-time use of the existing scout hall without having to pay the costs of building a new village hall. Thus, the scout group saved Hextable residents the huge cost and time of building a village hall.

In exchange for the scout group giving up its rights to an exclusive full time lease and not making the council pay the full statutory compensation for non-renewal, the licence agreement makes the council responsible for maintaining the hall and entitles the scouts to use it at stated regular times each week, to book a set number of additional slots on at least four weeks’ notice and to keep equipment in the storage room at the front of the hall. Describing this as “free” use does not give a fair picture - the group paid for these rights by paying to build the hall and by giving up the right to a full time exclusive lease and to thousands of pounds of compensation that the council would, by law, have had to pay.

There have been many problems. In December 2014 the Scout group had to write complaining that the council had not been letting the scouts use the storage room; instead the council was renting it to third parties. The council was also turning down many of the bookings of additional slots which the scouts made before the agreed four week deadline, because the council had already made other commitments without prior consultation. For example, in Novemer 2014, the council turned down more than 70% of the bookings the scouts were legally entitled to make for weekends over the following year.

The council’s newsletter implies that unless the council has a completely free hand to make advance bookings it cannot earn enough revenue to run the hall. This does not follow. The Scout Group has offered a consultation process that would enable the council to make a large number of advance bookings for third parties, while still leaving enough days free to give reasonable flexibility for scout bookings up until the end of the priority booking period in the licence. The council has not taken this proposal up.

The scout group has also written to the council offering to consider alternative storage arrangements that provide an equivalent volume of secure indoor on- site storage.

Unless the council complies with its legal obligations under the licence agreement, or else engages in constructive discussions about reasonable alternative arrangements, it leaves the scout group no option than to have the dispute resolved through the court. Such action will undoubtedly incur substantial legal costs for the council that it will pass on to residents, but which could have been avoided by adopting a different and more constructive approach.

The scout group is ready to consider any reasonable proposals that help the council raise revenue while providing the scout group with benefits equivalent to those promised under the licence agreement in exchange for the use of spare capacity in the hall that the scout group raised the funds to build.

Please encourage councillors to engage constructively in this process.

Powered by Conceptulise CMS
The views expressed in this website are not necessarily those of the Scout Association.