Gordon Henderson has hit out at Government plans to abolish the long-standing exemption from music licensing rules enjoyed by charities and voluntary groups.
Mr Henderson has warned that the small print of obscure new regulations reveals that churches, village halls, charity shops and sports clubs across Swale will be hit with unexpected new bills if they hold events with recorded music or if they play a radio in the background.
To date, voluntary groups have not had to pay for a so-called “PPL” performance rights licence in order to play recorded music. This exemption reflects the public benefit that such organisations provide, but this is now being abolished by the Government.
The new levy will affect church worship, charity discos, tea dances, youth clubs, dancing groups, sports clubs and even charity shops which have a radio in their staff room, and will come into effect in April 2010 once the new regulations are ratified by Parliament. In an effort to protect local voluntary groups Conservatives will oppose these changes.
The Government admits that the new levies will cost voluntary groups £20 million a year. Some organisations will “cease playing music” because they cannot afford a licence, and it will hit a quarter of a million organisations – 140,000 charities, 6,750 charity shops, 66,440 sports clubs, 4,000 community buildings, 5,000 rural halls and 45,000 religious buildings.
These new levies are on top of bureaucratic rules imposed by the Licensing Act 2003, which requires expensive ‘premises licences’ for village halls to hold regular small-scale social functions, and which has imposed new red tape to play unamplified live music.
Mr Henderson said:
“This is a kick in the teeth for the voluntary sector. Local charities and groups have had a tough time in recent years. They have struggled to cope with endless red tape and the effects of the recession. This will simply increase the pressure on them.
“I sometimes think that the Government won’t be satisfied until it has totally destroyed the fabric of traditional British community life. Having effectively shut down post offices and local pubs across Swale, Labour’s Whitehall bureaucrats now have our village halls, scout huts, charity shops and churches in their sights.
“This is a heartless tax on community groups and we are going to fight it all the way. I make this plea to the Government: Please don’t stop the music.”