Well this is new. I've decided to start this blog anonymously. There are times when I want to express something but feel tied by the fact that I may be seen to represent or speaking for my employer, my team or anybody else. Here (hopefully) I can comment upon what I see, hear and experience in the outdoor world.
There is no axe to grind, no grudge held towards anybody, it's just nice to let things flow without worrying about how it may be perceived...
Boringly, today I am going to talk about VAT. Obviously things are going to cost more. A lot of online shops and other businesses are publicly stating that they are going to 'absorb' the costs of the VAT rise. In other words they are going to spread the extra cost/loss in profit elsewhere, either through packaging costs or less generous offers.
The cost to charities will also be felt. I can speak from experience with my work in Mountain Rescue. I have been a volunteer with my team (one of 6 volunteer teams in North Wales/Snowdonia) for many years, since I was a young man. During that time I have seen the number of callouts rise dramatically. Ogwen Valley MRT's website states that they responded to 143 incidents in 2010. A good portion of the callouts in the latter half of the year were to assist the Welsh Ambulance Service, which struggled through with Mercedes vans and a handful of soft-roaders. Obviously, all of these were at significant cost to the team, in fuel, equipment and the sheer amount of time given by the volunteers that make up the team. The same was repeated in Llanberis, Aberglaslyn, North East Wales etc etc.
This isn't helped by the hike in VAT, and the repeated failure of Mountain Rescue in England and Wales to secure VAT exemption from the government (not for the lack of trying!) is still felt sorely amongst the teams.
On top of this is the increasing demand put upon Mountain Rescue teams for their skills when searching for missing people in urban and semi-urban areas. The various Police forces across the country with Mountain Rescue teams in their areas seem to see them as 'their' resource, calling them out for seemingly unsuitable tasks. I have searched (especially when assissting teams that get more of this kind of work) industrial estates in coastal towns, town centres, villages, car parks, nursing homes etc etc. For many teams this is their bread and butter, getting many more of these 'lowland' searches than picking up fellwalkers with broken ankles, or cragfast climbers. As such they get less publicity, and therefore less money into the bank.
So what's the point of all this rambling? Simple - appreciate what we already have, OUTSIDE all of the talks about cuts to publicly-funded services. Remember that a lot of charitable organisations will be struggling to survives, just as they have been for year upon year. Some teams (mainly Lake District) are over-funded in donations, others (outlying areas, non-National Park) will have to spend huge amoutns of time trying to raise a mere £10,000. If you are going to donate (please do!) then either donate to a 'smaller' team or sign up for 'Basecamp', the central fundraising scheme for Mountain Rescue England and Wales... that way your money will go to where it is needed, nbot to the team with the best publicity machine...