Reply to Article in Parish Newsletter
dispute with the Parish Council about the hall: our side of the story.
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
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.
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.
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.
background is explained below.
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
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.
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.
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.
group has also written to the council offering to consider alternative storage
arrangements that provide an equivalent volume of secure indoor on- site
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
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.
encourage councillors to engage constructively in this process.