Organisers of groups used by hundreds of youngsters are fuming after being hit in the pocket by new charges to use schools for meetings.
One Boys’ Brigade company faces a £6000 annual bill – having previously being given free access.
Volunteers who run the organisations fear for their future if alternative – and cheaper – venues cannot be found.
The charges are being implemented by Falkirk Community Trust, which oversees the out-of-hours community use of schools on behalf of Falkirk Council.
Officials say the move, which was rubberstamped by the local authority, is to “simplify” the charging structure in line with other facilities.
But Paul Mitchell, captain of 8th Falkirk Company of the Boys’ Brigade, said the move was “a slap in the face” after five years of using St Mungo’s High School for free. His company now faces a £1600 bill for up to 60 boys to use the school pool on a Monday evening and hall on a Friday evening.
Mr Mitchell added: “These facilities have allowed the company to thrive in recent years. The Boys’ Brigade is a not-for-profit organisation and many companies operate on a very, very small budget. The company I run is based in Bainsford and Langlees which is a deprived area and already some boys struggle to attend. I cannot go to parents and ask for more money to continue to use St Mungo’s.”
Alan Cruse, captain of 3rd Falkirk Boys’ Brigade company, said he was stunned when he saw the proposed charges which will mean finding £150 every week to use Falkirk High School.
He said: “We simply cannot afford to pay these charges and will have to consider whether we are able to continue to operate.”
Bill Stevenson, The Boys’ Brigade Director for Scotland, said: “These additional costs will have a major impact on the work of our local companies. We have been trying hard to grow the Boys’ Brigade in the Falkirk area and this increase will only make life more difficult for the volunteers who run these groups.
“The Scottish Government is very supportive of the work of the Brigade at national level, and I hope some way can be found to reduce the costs for the companies in Falkirk using these schools.”
Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn said her SNP group had warned that the administration was “planning to abolish the community schools project in favour of the privatised Falkirk Leisure Trust”.
She said: “Falkirk Council Leader, Craig Martin, denied this in February but cannot defend this now. The commitment to make the community schools the centre of after-hours activities has been ripped up along with the business case approved by both the council at the time and by the government of the day.
“The losers from this act of vandalism are the groups such as the Boys’ Brigade who offer so much in our community and who receive so little in return from the Labour and Tory leaders of the council.”
A Falkirk Community Trust spokesman said: “The new charges compare favourably with those in place within our existing sports and recreation facilities and we consider they represent good value.
“We have attempted to simplify the charging structure by the introduction of one price for all teams with participating school-aged children and young people up to 18 years. This will ensure that each different sport will be treated consistently and fairly.
“We are happy to discuss any concerns with groups.”