politics

MP calls on Government to hand Scouts cash to save historic ex-HQ and campsite


Ministers are being urged to throw the Scouts a lifeline to help them avoid selling their historic former HQ Baden-Powell House and a major campsite.

The Scouts Association has, like many charities, been hit by a slump in revenue and forced to cut costs during the coronavirus pandemic.

It announced 100 redundancies and plans to sell property and launch a major fundraising campaign to repair battered coffers.

But the proposals to sell Baden-Powell House – named after the movement’s found Robert Baden-Powell – and the 86-acre campsite Downe Scout Adventures in Kent, have prompted calls for the Government to intervene.

Labour MP Gareth Thomas, a former Business Minister, said other organisations helping youngsters received millions of pounds from taxpayers.



Gareth Thomas
Labour MP Gareth Thomas

He added: “The Scout Association is rightly a much-loved national institution and I hope ministers will meet as a matter of urgency with the Scout Association to help them stave off their Covid-related financial troubles.

“Given the money ministers find to support similar organisations, like the National Citizen Service and the Army and Navy Cadets, it is only right that they should help the Scouts to avoid axing so many jobs and being forced to sell off their iconic former headquarters in central London, Baden-Powell House, and a much-loved, 86-acre campsite that has been dedicated to scouting for almost 100 years, into private hands.”

In 2018/19 the Ministry of Defence gave Britain’s Cadet Forces “approximately £175million”, according to parliamentary records.

An April 2019 report by a cross-party group of MPs and peers said 95% of all government spending on youth services went to the National Citizen Service.

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The NCS has previously been described as a “pet project” of David Cameron, who set up the initiative when he was Prime Minister.

Mr Thomas believes the Scouts provide similar services for youngsters and should receive taxpayer help.



Lord Baden-Powell was the founder of scouting

Announcing its cost-cutting plan in November, the Association said: “We know that both Baden-Powell House and Downe are special places for our members, hold many memories, and that these decisions will be difficult for some.

“That’s why we will do everything to make sure that the legacies are honoured and heritage preserved.”

Baden-Powell House was built to provide Scouts with a place to stay at reasonable cost while visiting London.

Opened in 1961 by the Queen, it hosts an exhibition on Scouting and was the Scout Association’s headquarters from 1974 to 2001.

Scout Association chief executive Matt Hyde said tonight: “Like all charities the Scouts is facing significant financial pressures due to the pandemic and since March 2020 have faced a drastic downturn in our income at a national level.

“This is because of a massive drop in commercial activity.

“Centrally we have made use of the Job Retention Scheme and have made many difficult decisions such as making around 30% of our staff team redundant.

“The recent lockdown is not making our recovery any easier but we have a clear plan for the future.

“The money from the asset sales of Baden-Powell House and Downe Activity centre, as well as staff reductions, will enable us to replenish our reserves and invest in services that enable our volunteers to undertake their roles: programme, volunteer recruitment, safeguarding and safety.

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“These decisions will stabilise our finances long term and ensure we continue to support more young people.”

A Culture Department spokesman said: “Youth groups are vitally important to young people and the communities they serve, and we are doing everything we can to support them.

“The Scouts has received more than £1million in dedicated support from our coronavirus charities fund, as well as benefiting from wider government financial support schemes.

“Uniformed youth groups will be able to benefit further from the £16.5m package we are launching specifically for youth organisations across the country.”





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