Community groups need support to stay viable

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It is a shame to report today that the lads of the 28th Portsmouth Scouts, Beavers and Cubs have been left without a meeting place as an indirect result of cuts in council grants.

The troop leaders have done all they can to keep the group at the Stacey Community Centre in Walsall Road, Copnor, but to no avail.

Thankfully, the need to leave the centre does not spell the end for the troop. It’s likely that an alternative venue will be found, although this would necessitate a change of days for meetings, which could in turn affect the number of lads able to get along.

But although the Scout Association says it does not have a host of groups facing the same problem, we fear that it might be just a matter of time before this particular effect of the public spending pinch is felt elsewhere.

In the case of the 28th Portsmouth, the change in circumstances was nothing short of dramatic.

The Scouts were paying £35 a week for use of the Stacey Centre and were suddenly told that the charge was going to be more than doubled to £80 a week.

Clearly that was going to be a huge problem. We’re sorry that the centre management did not accept the Scouts’ offer of £45 a week with a summer fundraiser to claw back the difference.

But the centre, which only a few years ago suffered its own funding crisis which almost saw it shut down, has clearly had to rethink its charges as it prepares for a scheduled drop in monetary help it gets from Portsmouth City Council in a rescue package to save it from closure.

Those are special circumstances, but we would not be surprised if venues struggling to retain the level of general cash support they receive from local authorities look instead at increasing their charges.

There are many voluntary groups that could be affected by this. We urge councils to carefully consider how they might work to help save any that feel that their existence is under threat.

Organisations such as the Scouts do immense good work that should not be jeopardised by cutbacks.