New charges could spell the death of many community groups: online petition against water levy

There can be no greater contribution to our society than the vital support provided by charities and churches, writes Rev Jock Stein of the Church of Scotland’s Dunfermline Presbytery.

[Mr Stein has launched a petition calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to continue the scheme of relief and exemption of charities and churches from water and sewerage charges beyond 2010.]

They remain a beacon of hope for many, offering vital services, assistance and friendship. Why, then, would the Scottish Government want to put the services provided by charities and churches at risk?

This will be the reality under proposals to abolish exemptions and reliefs for water and sewerage charges from 2010, meaning that charities and churches across Scotland will be treated like businesses and face the additional burden of having to pay the full amount of non-domestic water charges. For more than half a century charities and churches have quite rightly enjoyed reliefs and exemptions from charges because of the valuable role they play and their contribution to civic life.

The imposition of water charges may prove to be the last straw for many such bodies, not just for those which are technically charities, but also for many of their client bodies who are already struggling financially and will be forced either to restrict their services or even shut down.

This includes everyone from charities who have their own premises, to mothers and toddlers groups meeting in the local church hall. In many remote areas, church and village halls are at the heart of the community, offering play centres for children and social gatherings for the elderly and others.

Full story at The Scotsman.