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Council to decide fate of major north-east events

Stonehaven Highland Games -Tug of War
Stonehaven Highland Games -Tug of War

Aberdeenshire councillors will decide the fate of many north-east events this week when they consider changes to the cost of entertainment and other civic licences.

The authority issued their proposed licensing fee increases to a public consultation and received a large response from both the taxi trade and event organisers.

An increase of 700% was proposed for a large-scale public entertainment licence which sparked an outcry from event organisations, many of whom are run on a voluntary basis.

The council has confirmed it will consider three different options; charging a discounted fee; restricting the fee to the current cost of processing; or charging the proposed higher fees.

The Licensing sub-committee, which meets on Friday, will also consider whether charitable or voluntary organisations should pay a more heavily-discounted fee to the proposed figures – but still at a 300% increased price for the three-year licence.

Members of the public, community groups and businesses were asked for their views on a proposed fee structure for a variety of civic licences issued by the authority.

Entertainment licence applications are consulted on with the emergency services and the council’s roads department, which is where the costs are incurred.

More than 484 people responded with comments including: “If the costs are too high, groups are more likely to stop giving their time and energy to some really worthwhile and well organised events” and “these locally-run events are an essential – it’s often the first time that new people into an area meet other locals, and the money raised is reinvested locally”.

Roger Barnett, chairman of the Stonehaven Highland Games, added: “We don’t make any money, we are a non-profit organisation.”

The council is the licensing authority for a wide range of civic licences, including for taxi and private hire car vehicles and drivers, and for public events.

Stewart Wight, owner of Safe Drive taxis in Laurencekirk thinks the suggested rises are a “complete farce” and has questioning the thinking behind the figures.

He added: “These may look like small increases, but extrapolated over the whole taxi trade in Aberdeenshire, they are set to make a fortune.

“Many taxi firms are on long-term fixed contracts and we simply cannot earn this extra money back.”

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