Council refuses life-saving grant

Nov 2020 New Chair Kev

Like most UK charities already struggling with the effects of the first lockdown on their activities and fundraising, local charities now face continued challenges thanks to the latest restrictions and the impact of the pandemic on their workloads and activities.

For instance, just as they did in the previous lockdown, local charity Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat (PLIRB) remains on call for search and rescue operations as designated by HM Coastguard.

But now PLIRB volunteers are also working in accordance with guidelines from the HSE, Public Health England and government guidance to carry out operations, from responding to ‘shouts’, to essential maintenance and equipment checks on Sunday mornings at their Pett Level boathouse.

Chair of the PLIRB charity, Kev Nuttall (photo above) explains: “although it complicates our working arrangements, we manage to adhere to government Covid guidelines at all times and our volunteers remain rescue ready.”

Rescuers not rescued by Rother

But whilst the life-preserving services provided by the rescue boat volunteers remain in place, the self-funded charity’s fundraising options have stalled – and not just as a result of the latest lockdown. Despite the self-funded charity having to raise their own running costs of over £10,000 each year, Rother District Council refused the charity’s application for the government’s charity rescue grant.

The refusal is understood to be down to the fact that the 50 year old charity’s historic premises arrangements (of managing their own rubbish and waste clearance and paying ‘rates’ via their water bill) do not demonstrate the ‘fixed premises costs’ through a business rates or council tax number, the criteria that grant applications were assessed by.

Pett Level Rescue boat launching in response to a Mayday call.

“It is disappointing to find that the criteria set by Rother District Council means that our charity cannot access grants which are supposed to be available to help during the pandemic,” Kev explains. ”As a self-funded charity, the fact our overall income through fundraising in 2020 is down 95% compared to to 2019 puts an additional strain on our charity and on our volunteers.

“But although the future seems quite uncertain, I’m confident that we will get through this intact and will be around for many years to come, providing essential rescue services along the coastline. At the current time, we are extremely grateful for the support and donations we are receiving from local business, community groups and individual donations – these are an absolute lifeline for us.”

’12 Days of Giving’ Christmas campaign can help local charities

With that in mind, the Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat is calling on supporters to nominate local charities, including the PLIRB, for a chance to win a £1,000 festive financial boost as part of Ecclesiastical Insurance’s annual ’12 Days of Giving’ Christmas campaign.

The specialist insurer will be giving 120 different charities an early Christmas gift of a £1,000 donation, with 10 winners announced each weekday from 7 to 22 December. It’s quick and easy to nominate a local charity online. Nominations are open from 9 November to 21 December.

Like the similar nomination campaign reported in Rye News earlier in the year, it does not matter how many times a charity is nominated, because the more nominations an individual charity receives, the greater its chances of being selected when the daily winners are drawn at random. So the PLIRB is anxious to share details of this campaign so that other local charities also have the chance to take part and hopefully win this £1,000 funding boost.

Mark Hews, Group CEO of Ecclesiastical, said: “As a commercial company with a charitable purpose, giving back is at the heart of our business. Our annual ’12 Days of Giving’ Christmas campaign will help charities change lives for the better and we know that for many charities, £1,000 can make a real difference. We’re encouraging everyone to nominate a cause close to their hearts this Christmas to be in for a chance to win a festive financial boost.”

Walkers cut off by the tide or swimmers swept out to sea – just some of the situations that see the inshore rescue boat launched

When the community can help

With Rye News reporting from week to week on the struggles faced by local charities, making a nomination for a local charity in the ’12 Days of Giving’ Christmas campaign is a quick and easy way readers can help local charities, without having to part with a penny. Sharing the opportunity via social media will also help local causes to increase nominations and their chances of winning.

Because, when local government support is absent, it is support from local communities and benevolent businesses which can make the biggest difference to local charities. In the case of PLIRB and the many other local charities which support community health, safety and well-being, community support does not just help local causes to get by, it can also help them to save lives.

About the PLIRB

Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat is a self-funded charity, providing inshore water safety and search and rescue services along the coastline from Fairlight to Camber, as well as inland on local rivers and waterways. The charity is staffed by volunteers, is independent of the RNLI service, and receives no central or government funding. For more information visit

Image Credits: PLIRB , Katherine Crowther PLIRB , Pett level IRB .


    • Thanks for your reply and suggestion Marti. Yes, you’re right, Sally-Ann Hart did visit PLIRB in September and expressed concern at the situation.

      The funding situation of independent rescue boats and the RNLI, in the context of Covid-19, has been debated in the Commons and, following her visit, Sally-Ann Hart contributed to this debate, with mention of local lifeguards at Hastings, the RNLI and the PLIRB. If anyone wishes to read the debate, it can be found here:

      To date, the outcome of this debate has made no difference to the current funding situation experienced by the PLIRB. As such, the continued interest and support of our MP, local communities and businesses is not only welcome, it’s also greatly appreciated by all of the volunteers at the PLIRB.

    • Don’t forget to involve your local Rother District Councillors in any problem you have involving Rother’s duties.
      In the case of Rye and Winchelsea that is Howard Norton and Gennette Stevens.
      In the case of Southern Rother (the villages of Fairlight, Guestling, Icklesham, Pett and Pett Level) it is myself, Andrew Mier, plus Roger Bird.
      For Eastern Rother (Camber, Rye Harbour and Winchelsea Beach) it is Paul Osborne and Sally-Ann Hart. Sally-Ann, following her election to Westminster and much delayed by Covid, will stand down in May and there will be a by-election.
      Contact details for us all are easily found on the Rother website or by a Google search.

  1. Sadly all charities are struggling to make ends meet, their inability to get out there and rattle the tins I has impacted on all of them, in the present climate, many people furloughed, food banks experiencing record demands and just a general low feeling among the public means that some charities will struggle more than others.
    Having been involved with the RNLI for 37 years I know how important donations are but looking at it from a layman’s perspective you sometimes have to ask yourself the question.
    What am I most likely to need, a lifeboat or a food bank/Hospice etc
    Don’t get me wrong, lifeboats do a fantastic job but these are strange times that most of us have never experienced before.

  2. Can I protest about the misleading tone of this article. Your headline ‘Council Refuses Life-Saving Grant’, and a later assertion – ‘Rescuers not rescued by Rother’, misrepresent the situation. Once again Rother is pilloried as a ruthless and uncaring authority which is a travesty of the truth. It is sad that PLIRB has slipped through the financial safety nets but it is not Rother’s fault. The criteria for receiving help are set by central government and they are strict and specific and the Council does not have discretion. I have no doubt that Rother will be working hard to find imaginative ways in which the plight of PLIRB can be tackled, just as they have been working hard to help Rye Hire find suitable new premises. Can we have a little more fairness and objectivity in our attitudes to Rother District Council.

  3. Councillor Norton laments about fairness and objectivity in our attitude towards Rother District council, perhaps he needs reminding the same needs to apply to his council. How many hundreds of thousands of ratepayers money has been spent over the years,on that loss making White Elephant on Bexhill seafront called the Dell awarr Pavilion, let me remind him also under Rothers tenure is the Landgate Arch,an important gateway to our town of Rye, which over the years was allowed to get into an appalling state, thanks to the lack of maintenance from his Council, and he wonders why so many people treat Rother District Council with Contempt as the old saying goes, you Reap what you Sow.


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