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Covid delays review of Moray Council licensing fees

A planning application for the redevelopment and extension of the James Jones sawmill in Mosstodloch is expected to be submitted to Moray Council.

A review into Moray Council’s licensing fees will be delayed until after the next election due to the pandemic.

Fewer applications over the last two years has resulted in less money coming in to Moray Council, with a shortfall of £27,800 for 2019-20 and £64,600 for the last financial year.

The fee structure, that includes licences for taxi drivers, window cleaners and street traders, is designed to be as far as possible self funding, with charges set to cover the costs of dealing with applications.

A full review was last undertaken in 2017 where it was agreed that the process should be carried out every five years.

Members at a meeting of the licensing committee today deferred the review until after the local elections in May.

Covid ‘skewed’ licensing figures

Senior solicitor Sean Hoath said: “Two years out of the last three the figures have been skewed by the pandemic and not a good representation of income.

“If we put the review off it will be after the local elections and a new committee will need to be trained, so it could be later in 2022 or 2023 but we will need to keep that under review.”

Mr Hoath added that although the number of applications had fallen, the licensing team had been busy due to staff shortages.

‘We could be damned if we do and damned if we don’t’

Conservative councillor for Keith and Cullen Donald Gatt said: “I have a lot of sympathy with officers and the predicament they’re in.

“We could be damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

Deputy chairwoman of the committee Louise Nicol felt it was unrealistic to go-ahead with the review considering the uncertainty caused by Covid.

She said: “There’s no point doing this at the moment.

“We’ve no idea when things are going to go back to normal, if ever.”

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