The Trust which runs all community owned assets in St Abbs has been told they have to pay full water and sewerage rates because last year they held donations received for the new community lifeboat.
The confirmation, received in a letter from the Environment Minister, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, said that “unfortunately” the Trust is not eligible for an exemption because “Ministers also agreed that all capital grants are included in income levels”.
Last year, St Abbs Community Trust SCIO, which runs the Ebba Centre in St Abbs, offered to hold all donations whilst a separate charity was set up to run the lifeboat. This money was then transferred to the Lifeboat Trust in March last year, however it was counted as income of St Abbs Community Trust SCIO.
All charities with an income of less than £300,000 pay no or a reduced rate for water, sewerage and drainage. However, the Scottish Government has confirmed that the fact that the money was subsequently transferred and used to purchase the lifeboat does not provide the basis for an exemption.
Local MSP John Lamont, who is a Trustee for the St Abbs Community Lifeboat, has expressed his disappointment with the decision and called on the Scottish Government to adopt a bit of flexibility and allow an exemption in this case.
Speaking afterwards, John Lamont MSP said: “Charities like the one running St Abbs Community Lifeboat are meant to be getting exemptions for water rates, but because of the success in raising money for the life boat last year, the Trust is being punished.
“There are rules in place to ensure that exemptions are only granted to organisations which need them, but it seems unfair that all the donations received to buy the lifeboat last year are being counted as income to the charity.
“I hope the Scottish Government can recognise the exceptional circumstances of St Abbs and apply a little flexibility.”
Ann Collin of St Abbs Community Trust said: “Prior to St Abbs Lifeboat achieving their charitable status St Abbs Community Trust set up a sub account to allow St Abbs Lifeboat to maximise their fundraising efforts. All funds were duly handed over once St Abbs Lifeboat charitable status was awarded and we are now being penalised for this.”