The case for the rod li­cence

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - KNOW HOW -

Si­mon Cooper pro­posed abo­li­tion of the rod li­cence (“Chalk Talk”, Jan­uary) and suggested that HM Trea­sury should fund fish­eries in­stead. I be­lieve that this is a very op­ti­mistic view of Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond’s largesse. Our re­cent Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest re­vealed that Gov­ern­ment fund­ing for fish­eries in Eng­land has been cut by 76% from £5.9 mil­lion to just £1.4 mil­lion in the last ten years. As a pro­por­tion of the to­tal fish­eries bud­get, the Gov­ern­ment’s share dropped from 23% to 6%, with the other 94% funded by an­glers. We are cam­paign­ing to re­verse these cuts, but pro­nounce­ments about the end of aus­ter­ity are mis­lead­ing. State pen­sions, the NHS, so­cial care, 2% of GDP on mil­i­tary spend­ing and man­ag­ing Brexit are all a long way ahead of us in the queue out­side No. 11 Down­ing Street. Si­mon in­cor­rectly states that li­cence sales are down 15% this year; the lat­est fig­ures have this de­cline at 8.78%, with the gap nar­row­ing daily due to the new, fairer 365-day li­cence for which we suc­cess­fully cam­paigned. It was also a World Cup year, the worst drought since 1976 and saw a new three-rod li­cence that has stopped carp an­glers buy­ing two li­cences. Things may not be that bad. Buy­ing a li­cence is in­deed a po­ten­tial bar­rier to par­tic­i­pa­tion. Our re­search shows that over 80% of an­glers first fished be­fore they were 14, so the An­gling Trust suc­cess­fully cam­paigned to get free li­cences for un­der 16s, which led to a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in li­cences is­sued. He sug­gests that we might get a share of the farm sub­sidy bud­get. When this comes from HM Trea­sury rather than the EU, there will be many other noses in this trough, in­clud­ing the pow­er­ful Na­tional Farm­ers’ Union. Si­mon also men­tions the De­part­ment of Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport (DCMS) as a po­ten­tial source, but it prin­ci­pally funds Olympic sports. The An­gling Trust has se­cured about £300,000 a year from DCMS via Sport Eng­land to pro­mote an­gling but it’s an up­hill bat­tle made harder by de­clin­ing Na­tional Lot­tery sales and flatlin­ing Gov­ern­ment sup­port for sport. Not only would we be very un­likely to re­place an­glers’ funds from a se­cure al­ter­na­tive – risk­ing fur­ther re­duc­tions in EA fish­eries staff and in­vest­ment – but abo­li­tion of the li­cence would also re­move a very pow­er­ful lob­by­ing tool that we use re­peat­edly when ar­gu­ing against mil­i­tant ca­noeists and the anti-an­gling bri­gade, and when fight­ing lo­cally and na­tion­ally for the rights of an­glers. In short: no pay, no say. Mark Lloyd, chief ex­ec­u­tive, An­gling Trust and Fish Le­gal I READ SI­MON COOPER’S ar­ti­cle on the sub­ject of abol­ish­ing the rod li­cence with great in­ter­est, but I am sure he is wrong. I find it hard to be­lieve in the cur­rent cli­mate that any fund­ing would be eas­ily ob­tained from the Trea­sury, the De­part­ment for Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport or DEFRA, what­ever En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Michael Gove has promised. The rod li­cence is un­usual, it is a hy­poth­e­cated tax, that is to say the funds raised by it are ded­i­cated to a par­tic­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture pur­pose, ie, the main­te­nance of our wa­ter­ways. It is, I would ven­ture to say, a good tax. At the mo­ment the rod li­cence must raise some­where in the re­gion of £20mil­lion, a not in­con­sid­er­able sum and, cynic that I am, I would be sur­prised if this amount could be eas­ily ob­tained from the pre­vi­ously men­tioned sources. Si­mon men­tions the cost of polic­ing the tax. I would sug­gest for a start that all day-ticket fish­eries ask to see a valid rod li­cence be­fore is­su­ing a ticket, rather than the usual no­tice point­ing out the ne­ces­sity. Also, all fish­ing clubs could ask mem­bers to sup­ply a rod-li­cence num­ber be­fore con­firm­ing their an­nual mem­ber­ship. I am sure very few would be­grudge the fee, es­pe­cially if it is made very clear that the re­sult­ing rev­enue goes to­wards the care of our wa­ter­ways and their en­vi­rons. Wil­liam Petch, Wim­ble­don

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