Anger over events move

The Press and Journal (Highlands & Islands) - - News -

Top events across the north-east could be can­celled if the coun­cil forces through a 700% in­crease in the cost of en­ter­tain­ment li­cences.

Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil wants to raise the fee from £ 90 to £ 750 to cover ad­min­is­tra­tion costs for large-scale pub­lic events. But or­gan­is­ers of events are fu­ri­ous, and de­scribed the pro­pos­als as a “kick in the teeth” to those who work hard to bring visi­tors from across the globe to the north-east.

All High­land games, out­door con­certs, gala days and fes­ti­vals – even those run on a not-for­profit ba­sis – must ob­tain a pub­lic en­ter­tain­ment li­cence to en­sure events are safely man­aged. The coun­cil in­sist their plans, which are cur­rently out to con­sul­ta­tion, re­flect the fact there has not been a fee in­crease in years.

But event or­gan­is­ers

“No in­crease to the fees for many years”

warned the rise could be the “nail in the cof­fin” for some groups. Roger Goodyear, or­gan­iser of the Scot­tish Tra­di­tional Boat Fes­ti­val in Port­soy, said he was “ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed” with the plans – and ad­mit­ted it may mean the team has to scale back.

How­ever, li­cens­ing com­mit­tee chair­man Richard Cowl­ing in­sisted it was nec­es­sary to con­sider the changes. “There has been no in­crease to the fees for many years and, in some cases, the cost of pro­cess­ing a li­cence is now more than four times as much as the fee charged.”

The con­sul­ta­tion will run un­til Jan­uary 23, and mem­bers of the pub­lic, com­mu­nity groups and busi­nesses are be­ing urged to have their say on changes to a va­ri­ety of the coun­cil’s civic li­cences.

Ev­ery year peo­ple love a good day out at an im­pres­sive ar­ray of out­door events across the north-east, but now they are un­der threat.

Fes­ti­vals, fairs and games are part of the cul­ture, but some or­gan­is­ers might be forced to scrap them due to pro­posed in­creases in coun­cil li­cence fees.

Pub­lic en­ter­tain­ment li­cences for larger “com­plex events” could rocket from £90 to £750– or around700%. A three-year li­cence for amod­est event would go up from £90 to £375, with a one-off show more than dou­bling to £190.

Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil is re­view­ing its li­cence struc­ture, in­clud­ing taxi driv­ers pos­si­bly be­ing charged £100 in­stead of £40. Of­fi­cials ar­gue that they cur­rently lose money through pro­cess­ing in­di­vid­ual li­cences to the tune of al­most £16,000 a year. Coun­cils have to de­liver value for money, of course, and ap­pear to be in a per­pet­ual fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Al­most £16,000 a year hardly reg­is­ters on the radar for coun­cils turn­ing over mil­lions each year, but it all adds up. What does not add up is why such a blan­ket ap­proach is be­ing used when the coun­cil’s list of li­cence hold­ers is a mix of busi­nesses mak­ing profit and vol­un­teers who give up their own time to en­ter­tain the pub­lic – and merely wish to break even.

Surely, a dis­tinc­tion has to be made here, es­pe­cially as the pub­lic au­di­ences who would be hurt by these in­creased charges are al­ready bear­ing the brunt of other coun­cil cuts. Give us a break, they might say.

“The coun­cil list of li­cence hold­ers is amix of busi­nesses mak­ing profit and vol­un­teers”

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