In the process of organising an entertainments licence for an event recently, I discovered that an Easter Fun Day would require a licence.
The Highland Community at large are well-known for volunteering time and effort in organising local events. Previously, events which were free required no licence; however, in the process of delving into the conditions for 2012, I discovered that we needed to have a licence for free events as well as those where people pay. The cost was over £150 and, for outdoor events, that figure rose to £370.
This was a quite ridiculous situation, where the outcome could only be negative, with volunteers unwilling to commit to giving their time and effort and even facing the possibility of having to dig in their own pockets to pay for these applications.
The paperwork ran to some 5 pages of application, 22 pages of guidance notes, 5 pages of conditions and a page each of Certificate of Compliance and Notice of Application. What happened to ‘plain English’ and simplifying paperwork!
This piece of legislation made a mockery of encouraging people to volunteer, and of the much-touted phrase ‘The Big Society’.
When I pointed out the ludicrous nature of these new legal stipulations, it caused a furore at Highland Council and instigated a bit of a media frenzy, with local and national papers giving it accurate coverage between the 2nd and 9th of March, and then the Daily Mail on the 10th. It was the catalyst for a series of meetings and ultimately, the Highland Council bowed to pressure and good sense and overturned its decision to charge for community events.
So, a good result was ultimately achieved.
However, it showed that we have to remain vigilant at all times.