Furious Scout group demands apology from council in unpaid rents saga

Some 2,200 of adults and young people have left Norfolk Scouts during the pandemic.

Attleborough scouts demand apology from town council - Credit: PA

A town's Scouts group have demanded an apology from its council after it was claimed they had paid no rent for 30 years. 

Attleborough Town Council (ATC), which was until recently caught up in a long-running dispute between members, recently examined its nine lease agreements with companies throughout the town, including one with the Scouts.

Councillors at the meeting heard the Attleborough Scouts did not appear to have paid any rent since they were established in 1991, despite a council motion in 2016 which said they should pay in line with rent paid by the bowls club – currently around £770 a year.  

The Attleborough Scouts were contacted for comment ahead of publication on Wednesday but did not immediately respond. 

In an email, the executive committee secretary of the Attleborough Scout Group, has since denied avoiding paying rent.

Gina Lopes has been suspended from her role as town clerk and CEO at Attleborough Town Council. Pict

Gina Lopes has been suspended from her role as town clerk and CEO at Attleborough Town Council. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

"We vehemently deny the accusations levelled against us by members of Attleborough Town Council regarding our lease, non-payment of rent and letting," they said.

"We have always been willing to work with the council on matters pertaining to the land and the concrete store that we lease from them and which we maintain.  

"When our lease expired in 2016, we requested a new lease and are still waiting for this.  

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"We have never received a rent demand from Attleborough Town Council. We do not let out any council-owned buildings."

Philip Leslie was in the running to become the new mayor of Attleborough. Picture: Courtesy of Phil

Phil Leslie, the mayor of Attleborough Town Council said he could not comment while they were in talks with the Scouts. - Credit: Archant

The secretary said the Scout hall had been put up by volunteers after a donation from Breckland District Council and is owned by the group.

They also denied claims they had cash in hand, saying they might have had to close if it were not for government grants, while locally they had to raise £60,000 for ongoing maintenance of the scout hut.

The charity commissions register for the Scouting Association shows they had an income of £53,542,000 against an expenditure of £54,848,000 - with the scouts losing £1,173,000 last year.

"We have requested a full and unreserved apology from the Town Council," the secretary said.

"We would like to thank all our members and volunteers for their support at this time." 

Attleborough mayor Phil Lesley said he could not comment on the rent situation at this time as they were currently in talks with the group.

What's happened at Attleborough Town Council?

In 2020, police were called to the town council after a large group of protestors refused to leave a private meeting.

The protestors were angry about attempts to remove two councillors - Taila Taylor and Edward Tyrer - accused of bullying by council staff.

A subsequent judicial review, penned by mayor Phil Leslie, found the allegations against the pair were "false" and formed part of a "malicious campaign".

The review showed an attempt by the then town clerk Gina Lopes, former mayor Tony Crouch and councillor Keith Montague, to organise an HR review into "member issues" at the council.

The pair received a full public apology from the council in May of this year.

ATC has had to fork out more than £114,000 in taxpayers' money in damages and legal costs.

At the Monday, October 4 meeting, behind closed doors, councillors discussed making a standards complaint against three unnamed members in relation to the judicial review.

Of the eight members who voted to remove Mr Tyrer and Ms Taylor, only three remain on the council, including Mr Crouch and Mr Montague.

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