Shock demand for St John Ambulance

PUBLISHED: 14:48 24 April 2008 | UPDATED: 15:44 11 May 2010

Royston's mayor Cllr Peter Lill with St John Ambulance volunteers Sheila Needham and Peter Nash

Royston's mayor Cllr Peter Lill with St John Ambulance volunteers Sheila Needham and Peter Nash

EXCLUSIVE ST John Ambulance has been told the cost of garage premises in Royston will be raised to £6,000 a year. The new charge will be introduced in 2010 when a deal to pay £750 a year comes to an end. The demand comes from North Herts District Counci

EXCLUSIVE

ST John Ambulance has been told the cost of garage premises in Royston will be raised to £6,000 a year.

The new charge will be introduced in 2010 when a "deal" to pay £750 a year comes to an end.

The demand comes from North Herts District Council, which says the garage space is seen as commercial premises.

But St John Ambulance says it will NOT be able to meet such a charge, and may have to end its operation in the Royston area.

Sheila Needham, secretary of the Royston St John Ambulance, told The Crow that the group's future is under threat due to massive increase in paying for the premises.

"We do not have that kind of money," she said. "We are a voluntary group which has to make ends meet from the money we raise in collections.

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"To pay £6,000 a year is impossible, and our future in Royston is in jeopardy," she said.

The increase in payments to the district council comes after St John Ambulance moved from its premises in Victoria Crescent, Royston, when the housing association, North Herts Homes, developed the site.

When it moved to new purpose-built premises in Beverley Close, Royston, it was told that it would have to pay £12,000 a year.

The rate was later reduced to £6,000 a year.

"We are a charity and we rely on the contributions of the public," she said.

Royston's mayor Cllr Peter Lill is to raise the issue at a meeting of Royston Town Council's general purposes committee.

"For the life of me I just can't understand the thinking behind making a voluntary group pay so much," he said. "If it were not so serious, it would be a laughing matter."

St John Ambulance volunteers are regularly on duty at events in Royston and the surrounding area.

In a statement, North Herts District Council said St John Ambulance had no problems in moving as long as an "equivalent facility" was provided.

The district council said the cost to it of providing premises at Beverley Close was £180,000.

It said it was agreed that rent would remain at £750 a year until the end of 2009 when it would be half commercial rate until December 2015.

"This gives St John Ambulance time to exploit its commercial business so that it can pay commercial rates," said the statement.

The district council added that the total rent subsidy to St John Ambulance by the end of 2015 will have been about £63,000 "which we believe is not ungenerous".

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