Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
TUESDAY 28 OCTOBER 2008
SIMMONDS OBE, MR
Q120 Mr Evans: My next question was
going to be about the fee increase which is proposed. As you know,
Sir Les Elton has recommended a 7% increase per year for three
years, which would be dramatic; so I think the question is redundant
to be frank.
Mrs Simmonds: Can I just say,
to do the sums on that, that if you had 10,000 premises you are
talking about an increase of £160,000. That is an inordinate
amount of money for a sports or any other club which is providing
effectively very much a social service which, in our current climate,
the need we have connectivity at that local level, is the service
that we are providing here.
Q121 Chairman: Brigid, do you accept
the principle that the fees paid by the whole estate should meet
the costs? In other words, you would adjust the structure of the
fees so that amateur sports clubs did not have to pay so much,
but another partmaybe bigger establishmentswould
have to pay more to compensate?
Mrs Simmonds: I would write off
the costs of introducing the Licensing Act because that is where
the local authorities saw this great increase in coststaking
on from 155,000 licences from magistrates was a big undertaking.
Now what we are talking is ongoing reviews, looking at risk registers,
a certain amount of inspection and I think it is that bit that
should be based on a smaller amount and less fees for clubs.
Q122 Mr Evans: I want to scratch
the surface now as to the impact that this is havingthe
new charges, the new licence applications, the time it takes to
apply and all that sort of stuff, as compared to the old system,
so that we know the full impact that this new regime is now having
Mrs Simmonds: We have this annual
fee situation, so you have that. You then have applications in
some cases for Temporary Event Notices. One of the problems that
clubs have, particularly if they are weather-affected, is how
do you apply 10 days in advance for a Temporary Event Notice if
you are affected by the tide or the weather as to whether the
event is going to go ahead at all? That is something by which
sport is particularly afflicted. If you are a sailing club and
you have to wait for the tide on a particular day then it is quite
difficult to predict in advance whether it is going to be on this
day or that day. So that system is quite complicated. The other
problem we have is that if you make any variations at all you
have to reapply; you have to reapply for your variation. It is
dependent very much on your size but let us say it is £190
if you fall into category B for your variation, you have to re-advertise
in the newspaper and you have to have your plans redrawn and re-submitted.
So those are the sorts of burdens that I think sports clubs bear.
Mr Smyth: Exactly the same for
usexactly. One thing about the Temporary Event Notices
that I have never understood ever since the Act came out, the
maximum you can have is 12 but one club officialshall we
say the Secretarycan only apply for five and then perhaps
the Treasurer has to apply for another five and the President
for another two, and that all struck me as absolutely irrational.
I still cannot understand why that happened.
Q123 Mr Evans: Is this Temporary
Event Licence just a figure plucked out of the air? Does it bear
any resemblance to anything or do you think that for most clubs
12 is probably okay?
Mr Smyth: No, we would prefer
perhaps a figure of 20, something like that.
Q124 Mr Evans: But you have just
plucked that figure out of the air too.
Mr Smyth: I have but I know that
a number of clubs say that 12 is not enough. Barry obviously is
a Secretary of a club.
Mr Slasberg: For my own club we,
I must admit, do try and ensure that we do not open to the public
at all. We are very jealous of our private status and therefore
we do not encourage public events. However, for many of the clubs
in my area they do have a problem; you have to get people in and
the Temporary Event Notice is a very useful tool to have. Yes,
it would be helpful to a lot of clubs if they could have more
than 12 in a year, simply on a survival basis because we are in
recession, as you all knowtalking of the club worldand
what we all need to do is to be able to innovate. Innovate means
trying new things and trying new things can be very difficult
if you have a club premises certificate that is limited, and if
you want to try something new you do not know if it is going to
work and you have to go through all the rigmarole of getting permissions
and then you might want to drop it after three months because
you have had your trial and it does not work. Another thing that
has come upcertainly with my club we have excellent relationships
with our neighbours, we have excellent relationships with all
the authorities but as soon as you put something on a lamppost
that says "If you have any problems please put them forward
to the local council" they come out of the woodwork. Certainly
my club, when we went through this procedure, had a load of complaints.
I spoke to all the complainants individually and said, "Why
have you never come to the club?We never thought we could."
So this, quite honestly, although it is a good thing to allow
people to make complaints, does encourage people out of the woodwork
who have no basis of complaint and waste both the time of the
officials and of the club and cause a lot of sleeplessness.
Q125 Mr Evans: So the figure of 12
should be scrapped and it should be dramatically increased. Indeed,
do you think there should be any limit?
Mr Smyth: I think we probably
need a limit because otherwise it may not be a private members'
club any more and that obviously is what we are all here to protect.
So I am not saying dramatically increase but 20 would be a lot
better than 12.
Q126 Chairman: But most of your clubs
have premises' licences.
Mr Smyth: No.
Q127 Chairman: They do not?
Mr Smyth: Very few; very, very
Mrs Simmonds: That is not true
for sports clubs because sports clubs do have Club Premises Licences.
Q128 Chairman: So working men's clubs
are operating on the Temporary Event Notice?
Mr Smyth: Yes, they have the CPC
and then they have the Temporary Event Notices, yes. There are
probably less than 20 out of 2000.
Q129 Chairman: Following up Nigel's
question. Brigid you and indeed the Registered Club Associations
have both made the point that as well as the fee which you have
to pay there are a whole lot of other costs in terms of advertising,
in terms of notification, in terms of maybe getting plans drawn
up. What estimate have you made of the total cost of going through
the licensing procedure?
Mrs Simmonds: I am not particularly
keen to be retrospective on this. I could give you lots of costs
of what it costs in the first place but it is now that we are
talking aboutthese ongoing costs of dealing with all these
things. There is no evidence that advertising in local newspapers
actually does anything at all and that it is read by anybody.
I have always thought that that should be scrapped and in the
early days when the Better Regulation Commission reviewed the
Licensing Act it suggested it should be scrapped, but it is not
part of the de minimis or the changes that are being proposed
by DCMS at the moment.
Q130 Mr Evans: But if you scrap it
how would you inform the public?
Mrs Simmonds: You have to put
a notice on the posters anyway and you have to put notices aroundit
is like planning permissionso for those people who are
in the vicinity of your area that is a perfectly good way of doing
it and, if necessary, put notices in your public library. But
advertising is hugely costly; in London you are only talking realistically
at advertising in the Evening Standard and so you are talking
about a lot of money and then if you then have to go out and have
professional help, as a lot of these clubs have had to do, then
that increases your cost enormously if you have to have plans
drawn up of your premises and where the bars are and if you want
to make changes. In the case of sport obviously quite a lot of
the whole of the sports area would be licensedit would
not only be just necessarily a bar. So every time you have to
go back to the licensing authoritiesthe system is mad.
We would very much welcome the minor variation to the procedures
and obviously that would reduce the cost and that is one of the
proposals, and under minor variations you would not be required
to advertise for a minor variation. But taking away advertising
would be helpful.
Mr Smyth: Of course, it was rather
ironic that once the Act was actually proposed and just before
it came into effect suddenly all the local provincial papers'
advertising rates went up about 200% because they could see that
this was a place where they could make money, and that cost clubs
more than they anticipated and wanted to pay, obviously.
Chairman: It is the case that local newspapers
are in some financial difficulties and I think that they would
be extremely alarmed at seeing this sort of revenue also disappearing.
However, I agree that you are not there to keep local newspapers
in business. Adrian Sanders.
Q131 Mr Sanders: There is also an
issue that not everybody is necessarily going to be walking around
and seeing notices and I think it is absolutely right that it
should be advertised to a wider audiencethey have a right
to know. Just as with planning applications they are not just
posted up on the lamp post, they also have to be advertised in
local newspapers. I just wonder why you think it should be different.
Mrs Simmonds: I was not aware
that planning applications had to be advertised in local newspapers
but you certainly get notices and you get letters from the local
authority and that might be a simpler way of doing ityou
get a letter saying, "This is being considered next door
and you have the opportunity to comment on it." There is
no reason why a system like that could not be introduced for licensing.
Q132 Mr Sanders: That would be helpful;
I would agree with you there. We have a difficulty in that DCMS
maintains that no new or additional evidence has been presented
since it received the Final Report of the Independent Fees Review
Panel to indicate that the Act has had a detrimental financial
impact on sports and social clubs. So is there any fresh evidence,
a body of evidence, a report or something that could be made available?
Mrs Simmonds: We work very closely
with DCMS, as the Committee is probably aware, particularly to
promote the Community Amateur Sports Club scheme, and we did a
survey of all clubs last year which found that 51% of them were
either running at a loss or just about breaking even. DCMS have
those figures and, as you know, they have been working with us
and the Treasury to try and enhance the Community Amateur Sports
Club scheme and we will be looking at whether we can introduce
gift aid on junior subscriptions, which is something that we very
much want. And in many cases they have supported us when extra
burdens are added to clubs because it is not only the Licensing
Act, just to look at some of the ones that we are facing at the
moment. We have drainage where they are trying to move from a
system which was based on rateable value to the whole size of
the areathis was raised by the Liberal Democrats in the
Houseand it could be a 318% increase for clubs in those
sorts of costs, which would cost £10 million a year. We have
CIL, the Community Infrastructure Levy. At the moment all these
questions that are being asked in the House suggest that sport
is going to have to pay CIL, which I think is again absolutely
mad. Not for profit organisations, they may exempt charities on
the front of the Act but that of course will not count for either
social clubs or for sports clubs even though they are not for
profit. Musicwe have licences for composers, £370
a year; PPL £116 a year for publishing. It is cumulative;
it is not only the cost of the Licensing Act but DCMS have plenty
of evidence which makes it absolutely clear that community sport
needs some help, and in straightforward government terms if we
are going to introduce this Five Hour Offer for sport in schools
then you need help from clubs. We cannot achieve that within the
curriculum, so there is a real advantage in helping community
sports clubs which, exactly like Kevin's clubs, are run, on the
whole, by volunteers.
Q133 Mr Sanders: Are you aware of
any work being undertaken in that areacontact between DCMS
and representative bodiesto see how the voluntary clubs
can help government deliver that sports target?
Mrs Simmonds: The Government is
helping us very much with talking to the Treasury about this in
terms of a gift aid scheme on junior subscriptionsthey
have done a lot of work there. We would like to have more contact,
probably with the Cabinet Office, which is responsible for the
sector. There are a lot of very good words talked about it but
in this economic situation in which we are in, the cost of gift
aid would probably only be about £4 million; so we are hoping
that the government might consider that. Some of the other costs
are greater. As ever, it is the burden placed on clubs by other
government departments which you then have to pick up and run
with. We would be delighted if someone would take up this drainage
scheme problem that we have because that will be an ongoing, huge
burden, particularly on sport because and all the pitches that
Q134 Chairman: What do the Registered
Club Associations think?
Mr Smyth: We obviously have not
got into discussion on the same lines as the sports community
because they provide sporting activities for youngsters, which
we do not do to anywhere near the same extent. We do obviously
have junior football teams and that sort of thing, representing
a number of clubsI can remember that Barry's team actually
won a trophy only last year. It is, as Brigid said, cumulative.
I know it is not your responsibility but the Gambling Act came
up with something whereby
Q135 Chairman: It is actually!
Mr Smyth: With gambling, if you
are a club that plays bingo over so much then all of a sudden
you are faced with a £2000 fee per year and that is going
up by another £400 this year. It all builds up and up and
up. Brigid said she had 51% of her clubs that were running at
a loss or just about breaking even. I believe it to be true that
we are about 80%, strugglingreally struggling. More clubs
are leaving the union because they are just about to cease. I
had one yesterday from the Liberal Club on the Isle of Wight,
"We are very sorry to say that after 105 years of existence
we just cannot afford to go on."
Q136 Chairman: I should have perhaps
also added at the beginning that I am a patron of the Maldon Constitutional
Club and they are finding life very difficult from a variety of
different pressuresobviously the economic recession, compounded
by the smoking ban, which has had a very damaging effect. So do
you have any idea as to the numbers of clubs that are going out
of business because of all these pressures?
Mr Smyth: Last year and for previous
years we have lost about 50, so I am not going to say it has suddenly
happenedit has been a steady drip of perhaps losing 50
clubs. But purely in my organisation, which is the working men's
clubs, I anticipate about 150 not paying their fee and if they
do not pay their fee then within two or three months that is a
sign that they will not be in existence; so it has tripled.
Q137 Chairman: Amongst all these
different pressures how significant do you think are the additional
costs resulting from the Licensing Act?
Mr Smyth: It adds up. Yes, it
is not as great as the smoking ban but again it all accumulates
and eventually you are at the top of the cliff.
Mrs Simmonds: I think the licensing
fees are a significant part of thatmoving from £16
to £200 and something is huge.
Mr Slasberg: If I may, for me,
I think there is a great change that I have seen over the years
in that our clubs have always been recognised as non-profit making
and serving the community. More and more as legislation goes through
we are being put on an even playing field with commercial business,
and I think that is what is killing us, quite honestly. We provide
alcohol but whatever comes out of that goes to our members, it
is purely for them, whereas a pub is in there for profit and nothing
else. It is almost like saying that the table tennis league should
play the same rules as the rugby league because they are both
sports. It is a nonsense and it is a nonsense that non-profit
making clubs should be treated in the same way as profit-making
licensed premises because they are a wholly different animal,
which used to be recognised but more and more, I feel, is not
being recognised, and that is one of the major planks which is
putting our clubs, which are community based and are there serving
the community, very much at risk, I believe.
Q138 Chairman: Can I just explore
that with you? The CCPR will make the caseindeed have made
the casethat sports clubs are delivering government objectives,
which is healthy living and increasing sports participation, and
generally are of huge benefit to the community and they need on
licence sales to support them. The working men's clubs are not
able to make quite the same claims in terms of overall benefit,
Mr Slasberg: I believe that the
working men's clubs can put forward a very great claim for work
within their communities. For instance, we have a brain damaged
group that use our club; we have kidney patients who use our club,
and anybody else can come in. We also provide facilities for families,
a safe haven that they can come to because of our policing of
the use of alcohol. I am not saying that nobody gets drunk in
a working men's club but because of our policing and requirement
for reasonable behaviour and the threat of expulsion for bad behaviour
these things mean a lot, because we have generations of people
coming to the same club. So whilst people are being put out of
work they do have somewhere to go where they can have refreshment
and have it cheaply; they can just watch TV and have a glass of
water if they wantthey are not obliged to buy within the
club. So people can get out of their home environment, out of
the stress of their own financial burdens into somewhere where
they can communicate with each other and just relax. It is not
the fantastic image of the sports clubs, I will give you that,
but it is a vital and very urgent need that our clubs are maintained
because we are the centre of the community and if you lose that
then where do people who are stressed, distressed and poor safely
go? I do not think there are many places that are around nowadays
that they can use.
Mrs Simmonds: Just to finalise
that discussion, the impact of the licensing cost increases is
the same as 10 adult average club memberships. The average rugby
club has 80 adults, so this equates to a 12% reduction.
Q139 Alan Keen: I do not want to
get too far away from the actual licensing itself but you have
been talking about the situation overall and even before the credit
problems that we are getting now, licensed premiseswhether
clubs or pubshave been facing difficulties because of the
smoking ban and that sort of thing. Are the breweries any less
helpful to clubs than they used to be because their own premises
are struggling? Have you noticed any difference?
Mr Slasberg: I think breweries
are beginning to fight for the business now because they are definitely
out for survival themselves. Having said that, the majority of
our clubs are run by amateursthey are run by working men
and working women with not necessarily a lot of professional expertise.
The breweries are out to make money and they will help if you
go to them but some people just do not know how far they can go
to them. We are not professionally run, although we do have some
support from our head officewe do have training programmes
that people can go onbut you put a sales executive from
a big brewery up against a clothes salesman from one of the local
stores and that rep is going to have a much more likely chance
of coming out on top of his argument at the end of the day. Countering
that slightly, the breweries do want places to stay open because
they want to sell their beer, but they want to get the most out
of them and I do not think that we have the expertise to get the
most out of the breweries sometimes.