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Country News - 2005

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New taxes threaten country shows

Thursday 06 January 2005

YET ANOTHER "stealth tax" is causing uproar in rural Yorkshire because it could threaten the future of 20 of the county's highly popular agricultural shows.

Reforms to the licensing laws may allow pubs and clubs to open 24 hours a day - a suggestion which has brought high level criticism from opposition politicians, police and judges - but the same legislation also contains a huge leap in indirect taxation for occasional events like agricultural shows, gymkhanas, point-to-point races and increasingly popular outdoor concerts.

Any body organising these events, and hoping to offset the costs with bar takings, would have to pay temporary drinks licence fee ranging from £5,000 to a massive £50,000.

Now, a consortium of countryside organisations which rely heavily on the profits from drinks sales have formed a campaign group to fight the proposals. The are the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), the National Trust, the Historic Houses Association, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions and the Visitor Attractions Forum.

The CLA fears that more than 20 Yorkshire agricultural shows could be put out of business by the new levy. Says regional director Dorothy Fairburn:

"These proposals would also hit point-to-point meetings, events vital to the viability of many historic homes open to the public such as outdoor music concerts, as well as many other country and charity fundraising events.

"The agricultural show is a traditional rural community event attracting visitors from the cities too. Many shows are struggling to make financial ends meet and increasingly dependant on voluntary helpers and sponsorship.

"Some of the smaller shows have disappeared from the calendar altogether. These shows are a vital way of demonstrating the importance of farming and the rural economy to a wider audience as well as being the social highlight of the year for many who live in the countryside. We shall fight these potentially damaging proposals."


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