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St Swithun's Day at Westminster

Wednesday saw Scouts from across the UK joined by former Rugby International Brian Moore at Westminster campaigning against the Rain Tax, which could swallow up to 25% of community groups annual income.

Scouting launched the Stop the Rain Tax Campaign in November 2008 to raise awareness of the threat posed to Scouting by new charges recommended by Ofwat, the water regulator, to be introduced by water companies for surface water drainage.

The changes could mean a minimum increase in water bills of £500 – approximately 25% of local Scout Groups' total income. Such charges will lead to cuts in the activities provided to young people in their communities by Scout Groups.

‘A tax that affects all people’

Cub Scouts, aged 8-10, were joined by Moore outside Parliament. There with banners they proclaimed their stance against the tax.

Lucy, a Cub Scout from 6th Southgate in London, expressed her frustration: ‘The tax is bad because it will be stopping us from doing activities we want to do’.

Brian Moore, there representing local Rugby Clubs which will also be affected, commented: ‘This is a tax that affects all people in the community. It’s only Ofwat who seem to believe it’s right.’

After campaigning the Cubs took in a tour of Parliament before meeting with their local MPs and Environment Minister Huw Irranca-Davies.

Controversy had been sparked last week when initially the Cubs were banned from meeting MPs because they are too young to vote. However, the ban was lifted after the Speaker of the House intervened.

Explorers express their frustrations

Explorer Scouts campaigned outside the HMS President on the River Thames, where Ofwat and the water companies were attending the Environment Agencies' Water Efficiency Awards.

The Explorer Scouts, also joined by Brian Moore, stood handing out leaflets to Chief Executives from Ofwat and the water companies explaining the impact the charges would have on their Scouting activities.

‘One way or the other we’ll fix it’

The afternoon saw a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Scout Group. Environment Minister Huw Irranca-Davies, former cabinet minister Hazel Blears, the Chairman of Ofwat Philip Fletcher, Chief Executives from the water companies, Scouts and members of the public were also in attendance.

Chair of the Group, MP Stephen Pound, said: ‘I’ve never known so many MPs attend a meeting of this nature. Over 60 MPs is unprecedented.’

During the meeting Explorer Scout Nancy Ibrahim explained the problems the new charges would cause for Scouting and other community groups. She explained that whilst Scouting is not against paying towards surface drainage, the current costs seem unfairly excessive. Environment Minister Huw Irranca-Davies admitted mistakes had been made introducing the charges, specifically by the water provider United Utilities.

He expressed that he still had faith that Ofwat and the water companies could come up with a positive solution and gave a firm commitment that if they didn’t he would intervene: ‘One way or the other we’ll fix it. Let’s give the regulator and companies a chance. If not I’ll fix it.’

Wayne Bullpit, Scouting's UK Chief Commissioner, said how the day had been a real success for Scouting: ‘It’s been good to get a commitment from the Environment Minister and Ofwat that there will be a solution over the next two weeks.

‘It’s also fantastic to see so many Leaders and enthusiastic Cub and Explorer Scouts here today making their feelings known.’

Find out more

Videos were posted throughout the day on The Scout Association’s Stop The Rain Tax Campaign youtube page.

Explorer Scout Sam Coopey was there covering the day's events for Scouting magazine and scouts.org.uk. Read about Sam's experience.

Find out more about the Stop The Rain Tax Campaign.

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