Wednesday, 7 March 2012

An Insidious Piece Of Legislation


Consider a life without music, literature and the wee ones' Christmas plays. The arts contribute much to the quality of most of our lives.

I didn't think I would meet a victim of the Scottish government's Criminal Justice and Licencing (Scotland) Act 2010 - which comes into force on 1 April - so soon after reading Joyce McMillan's obvious anger at this latest piece of legislation.

For some years I've been associated with a creative writing group, many of whom are published writers.  Every year they self-publish a book of short stories and in order to promote themselves they give a free evening's entertainment in a city bookshop.  This year's book is with the printers and the posters and flyers have also been printed. All of us do our best to ensure a healthy turnout by distributing these as widely as possible.

Today I had coffee with one of the group. "You're not going to believe this," were his welcoming words and I knew he was scunnered by the tone of his voice. I waited. "We're going to have to cancel the reading evening," he whispered. (He's one of those people who, when desperate to repress anger, whispers).

The group's secretary had received a phone call from the bookshop manager explaining his head office had instructed that all events would have to comply with the latest legislation.

Previously, because it is a free event, no licence was required. This new legislation requires a licence for any event - be it free or paid admittance - where the public are admitted. Dundee council has yet to update its website but Edinburgh has done so. The link to fees on both websites is broken although Dundee council appears to charge a flat fee of £245 for a Public Entertainment Licence.

The group's annual reading event normally generates enough book sales to cover the cost of all printing involved, including publicity material. The publicity material will now have to be binned and the group will have to rely upon the local media to promote this year's book. The event may be small but it attracts a 'full house' each year and it is an enjoyable social occasion.

No blame lies with the bookshop owners. They are, quite rightly, protecting themselves. The blame lies with the Scottish government for more foolish law making. As I see it, the removal of 'payment' from the 1982 legislation is an attempt, by government, to glean more money for their coffers rather than Joyce McMillan's suggestion that it is a question of 'people control'. The effect this law will have on small artistic groups, as she acknowledges, will be devastating.

It is indeed an insidious piece of legislation.

41 comments:

Woodsy42 said...

"an insidious piece of legislation. "

Sadly only one among many SR, most having the combined effect of reducing our freedoms or taking our money to do something ordinary and harmless - or both.

English Pensioner said...

Just wait until Scotland gets its independence!
You've seen nothing yet!

JRB said...

To those who would implement such legislation - you would do well to read the parable in Mathew 13:13

“because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.”

... another of our freedoms bites the dust.

RMcGeddon said...

It allows them to start charging for easter egg hunts and coffee morning licenses etc at £150 to £400 a pop.
Most of the council money now comes from parking fines, baillifs notices and these 'licenses'.
The big elephant of the EU will be behind it all somewhere. Just needs to be tracked down.

Brian said...

Rosie,
You're right about it being an attempt to increase revenue at a time of Council Tax freezing. One Scottish Council has accepted that its function is to serve the public.

Brian said...

According to the guff invented to justify the similar Licensing Act 2003 which stifles entertainment in England and Wales, Licensing authorities operate according to four licensing objectives, to make sure that licensable activities are carried out in the public interest:

•The prevention of crime and disorder
•Public safety
•The prevention of public nuisance
•The protection of children from harm

Unsurprisingly, religious organisations are exempt.

pa_broon74 said...

The legislation was insidious before they made these changes.

I had an 'exchange' with someone who turned out to be an SNP councillor from my local council, it was over skip hire of all things (we were in the local paper and everything...)

The councillor opined that '...we can't pay for everything you know...' I said '...I know that but in all your price hikes, you still manage to employ two people who do nothing but work for the unions...'

East Lothian Council employ two people who basically work for Unison (or what ever union it is these days) costing in excess of £100k per annum when alls said and done. All councils do this and it should be pointed out often.

All I was asking for was a £400 skip hire charge to be waived. It was for a Scout Jumble sale. (The hire charge is now over £700, an overhead for an event that only raises £2-2.5K.)

Now it seems, we'll need to cough up yet more for any fundraising we do, I wonder how long it'll take for them to sink their claws into Jumble Sales, we all do them (horrid though they are.)

Insidious indeed. Councils are crap, but I knew that anyway.

JRB said...

@
A point or two re Highland Council

- HC fully approved the change in legislation when it was announced in January, with an implementation of 1st April.
- The council proceeded with printing all necessary explanatory paperwork and application forms ready for 1st April.
- Till last week no councillor had raised comment or criticism.
- Only when a local group found out they required a £153 licence for a kiddies Easter Egg Hunt did the proverbial brown stuff hit the fan.
- Local councillors were inundated with complaints from irate parents.
- Only then did these local councillors take the mater up with the Licensing Committee.
- Also subject to intense public opposition, the Licensing Committee agreed to advise against implementation of the new discretionary rules.
- It still remains for the entire Highland Council to accept, or not, the advice given and suspend the new charges.

Are Highland Councillors actually listening to people – or are local elections looming?

Richard said...

Rosie, I am sure you are right about it being a revenue-raising exercise, but I think Joyce McMillan is nearer to it: people control. Here we have a benign and essentially harmless occasion, free, non-commercial, and organised and attended by volunteers. People doing what people do. So that needs a licence, of course - how dare people think they can just do what they want? And of course the fee is inevitable. Issuing licenses costs money, you know. How else would they pay for all the clerical staff? And so it goes.

It's people control, for sure. Bringing everything under the umbrella of the state.

subrosa said...

It's a worrying feature of government these days Woodsy.

subrosa said...

I thought England was going the same way EP.

People have yet to experience this new law and when they do I hope there will be uproar.

subrosa said...

They're chipping away slowly JRB. Next one will be the increase on alcohol, plus this year's religion bashing involving gay 'marriage'.

subrosa said...

I tried to find it RM but could find nothing. That doesn't mean to say you're wrong by any means.

subrosa said...

Brian, I was involved in a discussion about council tax the other week. All of us agreed we'd rather have good roads than the freeze. The poor road surfaces were costing the motorist far in excess of an increase. The freeze doesn't even help those who are poor because they don't pay it in the first place.

subrosa said...

Ah Brian, so it's similar in England and of course they manage to include children.

subrosa said...

There ought to be reduced rates for groups like scouts and guides pa_broon.

I rather like jumble sales but perhaps it's an age thing. :)

Must remember to use your 'two full-time union workers' when I can.

subrosa said...

Ah, I didn't hear about that JRB. So the legislation is discretionary?

In that case anyone affected should just go to their local paper and ask for their complaint to be included in the next edition. Ever better, they could write the article themselves and also bombard the letters pages.

subrosa said...

With hindsight Richard, yes it's very possible more about people control than income.

Sadly.

RMcGeddon said...

SR. The EU will be in there somewhere lol
The new licensing system is a good way for the authorities to get a heads up on any upcoming events where people will congregate in case they want to send someone along for a wee listen. Plus build up an excellent database of local community leaders and their affiliations.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Brian, I was involved in a discussion about council tax the other week. All of us agreed we'd rather have good roads than the freeze. The poor road surfaces were costing the motorist far in excess of an increase. The freeze doesn't even help those who are poor because they don't pay it in the first place.

7 March 2012 14:01

Rosa with regard to your comment and the "poor" not paying council tax I think you'll find under the latest HB & CT statutes and regulations many of them will be required to pay substantial amounts of CT in conjunction with their HB being cut.

Joe Public said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pa_broon74 said...

Not having the council tax freeze is a double edged sword.

Its also a microcosm of this new legislation (or the new legislation is a microcosm of the CT situation before the freeze.)

Anyway, I don't trust the council to do much of anything right, the whole set up stinks. If they're left to set council tax rates themselves they go mental, its a bit like putting utility companies in charge of your light switches.

And so it is with this, if you give a council discretionary powers they aren't actually discretionary because the council absolutely can't help itself, especially if it means more revenue for their greedy little paws.

Social services is always skint, perpetually so, yet come March, so much road furniture and hanging baskets appear as other departments desperately try to offload budgets lest they be cut the following year.

Keep the freeze, most councils I wouldn't trust as far as I could throw them. Or fix the funding model.

Nikostratos said...

Subrosa

'I waited. "We're going to have to cancel the reading evening," he whispered. (He's one of those people who, when desperate to repress anger, whispers).'

Obviously he is not a Nationalist as there anger is always unsuppressed and they never whisper unless they lose their voice from the constant SHOUTING.

ha ha ha

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Linked to.............

Leg-iron said...

This means that book-signing events can now only be held if the author is already making enough money to cover the licence.

Nobody makes much money at those events, they are purely promotional.

So while the likes of J K Rowling will regard this as pocket change, all new authors are effectively excluded unless they have a fair amount of disposable cash to hand - and not many do.

So now, I can only consider a book-signing event south of the border. The train fare south will cost me less than the licence for the bookshop down the road!

Another reason to punch Alex Salmond in the face. What a way to promote Scotland, by driving all its authors out of the country.

I used to think he knew what he was doing, but that opinion has been steadily eroded over recent years.

Brian said...

Crinkly,
Far better to cap local authorities' total budgets than freeze Council Tax (which only accounts for under a quarter, the majority being government grants) - they have to be taught that the people are in control. What's wrong with having a binding referendum on the year's budget as proposed by the council at the same time as council elections? If the voters don't agree then the council goes back to produce an acceptable budget which then must face another referendum. In the meantime, the council ticks over on the previous year's budget.

subrosa said...

Exactly RM. Control of the masses even if the masses are wee voluntary groups.

subrosa said...

Ah Crinkly, I will look into that. Haven't absorbed the new proposals yet. Certainly in the past the freeze hasn't helped the poorest in society.

subrosa said...

Pa_broon, I'd prefer decent roads to a further freeze, but that doesn't mean any increase would be spent on roads of course.

As you say it would possibly be spent on hanging baskets or new office chairs.

subrosa said...

Oh Niko, don't judge all independence supporters to be the same as your Labour pals. :)

subrosa said...

Many thanks WfW. Just noticed.

subrosa said...

That's right Leggy, but I believe some councils are now back-pedaling and saying they won't impose it upon small events. I don't believe them for a minutes.

Aye the SNP will lose a lot of support over this. Deservedly so.

RMcGeddon said...

I had a quick scan over that new 2010 Act SR and the main mention of the EU was taking EU crimes into consideration when sentencing etc

There are a lot of other changes that were obvious. Although of course I'm not a lawyer so read for yourself.

1. Some Common Laws scrapped..plea of diminished responsibility or insanity no longer considered when sentencing.

2. Powers of entry and inspection now given to 'authorised civilain employees' instead of only a 'licensing authority or constable'.
Probably to allow baillifs and private police entry to your premises.

3. License applicants must now give 'place and date of birth and address' rather than just address. Plus all associated with premises ( managers , tenants etc.)

4. Sheriffs may now sign warrants for anywhere in Scotland rather than just in their court area.

5. You can now be locked up in a hospital if you're 'unfit for trial' or 'not criminally responsible' rather than 'insane'.

6. Jurors can sit up to age 71.

It's strange that all this stuff happens without a peep from the media.

subrosa said...

I scanned it too before I wrote the post RM but I was mainly interested in the Public Entertainment section.

Strange that a 'constable' was replaced for a 'authorised civilian employee'. Oh, you saw that too. Yes that's what I thought.

Thanks for pointing out the other interesting changes. That's good of you.

Aye, the media has been silent. Even the lawyer bloggers have been quiet.

tedioustantrums said...

Councils are given money to fix the roads by central government. It isn't enough? It never is. The money comes out of road tax.

When the councils get the money it is not ring fenced so they don't spend it all on roads.

Councils and all other public bodies do not understand how to cut expenditure. They constantly chase all avenues of cash raising whilst always protecting their organisation first.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Pa Broon how on God's earth do you manage to pay £400 for a skip hire?

Quick Google shows they're available for about £250 even the largest size.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Also, SR, if we let them raise the council tax, don't delude yourself that they'll spend the extra money on things we want - like road maintenance.

There are all those pension deficits to cover, remember.

subrosa said...

TT, the local town here is being resurfaced bit by bit. Contractors have done much of it and they've been quick and efficient. The council is now doing a small section and it's taken all week. Doesn't seem as if it'll be completed by the weekend either.

I've never seen one person working past 4pm yet the whole stretch of road is closed off and there's a congested detour to take.

No they'll never cut costs. My local council continue to expand 'green' issues requiring more staff.

subrosa said...

I didn't think they would spend extra money wisely WY, but should efficient councils ever appear in an independent Scotland, I would like to think there were great changes in the way they're run.

Indy said...

Your article is wrong I am afraid.

This is how the position has been set out by Nicola Sturgeon on her STV Local Blog.

I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets when I tell you our local manifesto will make it clear that an SNP administration will not require free-to-enter artistic and cultural events to be licensed, except in exceptional circumstances.

"Legislative changes to the public entertainment licensing regime gave local licensing authorities the power to include free-to-enter events within the terms of licensable activities, if the Council chose to do that. But it was left to the discretion and common sense of councils to decide what type of event it would be a appropriate to license.

The current administration in Glasgow has now put in place a 6 month consultation on options for public entertainment licensing, which is welcome.

SNP councillors will consider the results carefully - but I can reassure everyone who has raised concerns about this that, under an SNP administration, ordinary artistic and cultural activities will be able to continue as normal without having to apply for a public entertainment license."

If the question is asked why was the legislation changed - the purpose was to deal with large free to enter commercial events like raves.

I suggest that if you were disturbed by hundreds of people turning up to an all-night rave and said to the Council how come we were not given any notification of this so at least we could have made arrangements to stay in a hotel for the night and they said because it was free to enter therefore it did not need a license you might be complaining about it. Indeed it was the number of people complaining that kind of thing that led to the legislative change.

If councils are so stupid that they are incapble of amending the category of events which THEY DECIDE are exempt from a need to be licensed to include non-commercial community events then elect a different administration.

subrosa said...

I disagree Indy. The facts in my post are correct and I've seen the correspondence from the bookshop HQ and then checked out the council website. There was nothing there saying discretion was involved. Neither was there anything on Edinburgh or Glasgow council's site at the time the post was written.

The information I've had from the younger generation is that raves they've attended have always charged an entrance fee 'to cover the cost of the venue'.

The council concerned with this could give no advice to the group except that they had to apply. That's why it's been cancelled.

Leaving councils to decide for themselves is leaving the gate wide open.

Anyway, councils have known for some time that this legislation was to become law. Why haven't they organised consultations before now?

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