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News | 05 August 2020

Protecting our movement for a brighter future

By Tim Kidd, UK Chief Commissioner and Matt Hyde, Chief Executive
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The impact of COVID-19 has left so many organisations in a difficult financial position. We’re no different as we try to deal with these unprecedented challenges. UK Chief Commissioner, Tim Kidd, and Chief Executive, Matt Hyde explain the decisions we’ve taken to protect our movement for a brighter future.

As lockdown restrictions start to lift it’s clear that we’ll have to adapt as people and as a movement to a new reality. Those who joined us at the member online meetings in April and June heard that nationally, our financial situation remains extremely challenging. Before the impact of COVID-19 we were already in a position to consider taking measures to protect our finances, due to increasing costs to provide the essential services, now with COVID-19 the need to take action has accelerated. In the meetings, we explained the need to take immediate action to make sure that the movement continued to thrive, and feel the actions we’re taking are the minimum we can do now to make sure we still provide you with those essential services. If you didn’t manage to watch the June meeting, you can catch up with the recording and slides.

Our financial situation

At the start of the crisis, we took immediate action. We furloughed over 50% of our Headquarters’ staff and stopped all non-essential spending. Yet we’re still facing a deficit of more than £3 million this year if we start full face to face activities and meetings in September. If we start again later than this, the situation is likely to be more serious still.

One of our biggest areas of spending, is our staffing costs. While making cuts in this area was always going to be our last resort, we have no other option. And so we are in the midst of consultation with staff, mainly in our commercial and back office areas, about making just under 50 redundancies. Depending on what funding we can secure, we may have to go further later in the year.

As a result of reduced bookings and increased costs, we have also had to take the sad but necessary step of closing our hotel and conference centre at Gilwell Park. This is to make sure that we do not spend money on a business that is no longer profitable at a time when resources are most needed to support essential services. 

As you can imagine, this has been incredibly challenging both for staff and customers as it will result in cancelled bookings and potentially, redundancies too. All customers have been informed, and we are working closely with the staff involved to support them. No buildings or other assets will be sold at Gilwell Park and the space will be repurposed to support our headquarters and adventure centre.

Even with these savings, we still need to take further action, which includes increasing the membership fee.

An increase to the membership fee; supporting Scouts nationally and locally

During the last all members’ meeting, we told you about the plan to increase the membership fee for 2021-22. As a reminder, the membership fee helps us provide essential services to you, such as safeguarding and insurance. We said we would to go to the Board of Trustees with two options to vote on:

  • Increasing membership fee by £6, or
  • Increasing the membership fee by £7.50 with £1.50 ring-fenced for hardship funding for Groups who can’t access funding from the National Lottery Community Fund or other sources (such as the Retail Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund).

To help the Board make an informed decision, we consulted all our Council members asking them which proposal they supported. Of our 352 members, 154 (44%) responded with 74 (48.1%) supporting the £7.50 increase and 70 (45.5%) supporting the £6 increase.

The Board therefore decided to increase the membership fee for 2021-22 by £7.50, with £1.50 ring-fenced for hardship funding for Groups who can’t access funding. This will help to ease some of the financial pressures nationally and also help us to make sure we’re providing support locally to those Groups who need it most. We believe the demand will be greater than this and so we are also working with Foundations and Government to provide further support to those parts of the movement most in need and hope to be able to report more on this in the autumn.

Next year’s Census

In the last all members’ online meeting in June we also explained our plan to move our annual Census to 15 October 2020 to help with our financial predictions for the upcoming year. Since making this announcement, a number of concerns were raised by volunteers locally and so we took further soundings and then asked the Board to decide on the date to collect our annual Census for next year. The options were:

  • Collect a Census (lite) on 15 October 2020
  • Collect a normal Census on 31 January 2021

To help the Board make this decision, we asked County/Area/Region Commissioners (CCs) to vote on the date they felt would be best to collect their Census figures locally. Of the 55 CCs who responded, 30 of them thought it would be better to collect Census on 31 January 2021. Most argued that whilst collecting Census in October would help them plan financially, it would have a large impact on the accuracy of their figures. Therefore, the Board has decided that we undertake a normal Census on 31 January 2021, and then for all future Censuses, we would move to undertaking our census in the autumn (for the following year).

Local countries and counties may well be gathering membership data in the autumn to inform their budgeting next year.

The last issue of Scouting magazine

Before the COVID-19 crisis, we told you that we were planning to stop publishing Scouting magazine, not just to remove the cost of production and postage but to respond to new ways to communicate in a digital age. The current situation has accelerated this change.  

August’s issue of Scouting magazine will be the last ever issue, and it will be delivered digitally (by email) to members. We know that stopping the magazine may come as a disappointment to some. While it’s the end of an era, our society is rapidly changing, demanding quicker responses, more sustainable choices and flexibility in the way we communicate. This change reflects that shift, making sure that we continue to support our movement in a digital world through our website, emails, online calls and videos, social media and any other new opportunities we want to explore so that we continue to provide you with ideas and support so that you can run inspiring programmes for young people. 

Thank you

We know how much you’ve done as volunteers, especially over the past few months. Never for one moment do we take this for granted. Taking action like this is never easy, and we’re sure for some it will be disappointing. However let’s never lose sight of why we do this – to help young people step up, play their part and gain those brilliant skills for life.

While this is undoubtedly a challenging time for our movement, we’re sure that better days lie ahead. Thank you for your fantastic support – it’s always appreciated.      

 

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