Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s environmental services committee has called for the Department for Communities to continue charging a reduced fee for entertainment licences.
The matter was discussed at a meeting of the committee on Tuesday, February 1 where a report from Council’s head of environmental health was presented to committee members.
The report explains that as of March 2021, the Department for Communities introduced an amendment to the licensing fees structure to introduce a nominal fee of £1 for renewal application for all categories of entertainment licence, with effect from April 6.
This fee was reduced as a temporary measure as part of support measures to the hospitality industry as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.
Entertainment licensing fees set within legislation are categorised according to the occupancy of the premises and the type of entertainment provided, with fees ranging from £50 to £1,000 per premises.
Members were told correspondence has been received from the Department for Communities asking for local authorities views on the need to extend this reduction in fee beyond the 2021/22 period or if fees should revert back to their pre April 2021 levels with effect from April 2022.
It is anticipated that full entertainment activities should take place in the 2022/23 renewal period. However, officers explained that it is unclear if all venues will operate and return to the provision of entertainment seen before the pandemic and noted that the number of applications for entertainment licences that applied during the period April 1, 2021 to date is at 57 per cent of the number of applications recorded pre-pandemic.
Officers also estimate the reduction in entertainment licensing fees to £1 in 2022/23 would have the potential loss of income to the council of £45,000 but it is anticipated that financial support to date and further support anticipated from the Department for Communities for loss of income, will adequately cover for any continued fee reduction.
Noting the officers’ recommendation “seems to be fiscally sound” Alderman Stephen Moutray proposed to DfC’s correspondence with the view that the reduction should be extended for the 2022/23 period.
This proposal was seconded by Councillor Jill Macauley.