Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Charitable events and the Licensing Act

A recent front page headline in the 'Western Morning News' exclaimed "Red Tape hits Charity Shows". This is not the first time the WMN has had a go at the Licensing Act; this time they concentrated their fire on what are known as Temporary Event Notices (TENs). The cost of a TEN is £21 payable to the relevant local authority. The sort of situations requiring one of these notices is a village hall laying on a party say or wedding reception (because of consumption of alcohol) or a local band putting on a concert (provision of live music). According to the paper a charity bookshop was told it had to apply for a license because of a person playing live acoustic music to accompany a poetry reading. The report also highlights the case of South Devon storyteller Clive Fairweather who will appear at next month's Totnes Festival. Apparently participants have been asked to sort out their own licenses and as Clive sometimes performs in costume he has been told that this falls within the act.

The first thing I want to know is whether this draconian legislation is cost effective for local councils. In other words how does the price of £21 actually compare with the cost incurred by the council in administration. I've never heard that question asked. But what makes me so angry with central government and its advisers is that they bring in a law with no appreciation of the deleterious effect it can have on small charities and local communities - they seem to have no perception whatsoever about the working of small voluntary groups. Can they not see that if you are a small organisation raising money for charity say then £21 makes a big hole in your finances. But then of course the rarefied life these lawmakers lead is probably a million miles away from these local community situations.

Sometime near last Christmas our local and esteemed Callington Town Band were faced with paying for a TEN at each of the six money raising concerts they held at outdoor locations in the town. In this instance the helpful Callington Town and Caradon District Councils came to the rescue. I think that Caradon were able to designate somewhere in the town as town property so that the band playing there would not have to pay an additional fee. There was a lot of publicity about this at the time I recall. What is so obvious to me is that there are many instances of events that don't warrant this bureaucratic nonsense. The regulations are self evidently ridiculous in their all embracing scope and it's time the government sorted this lot out.

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