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Country News - 2005

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Blair promises village hall help

Thursday 23 June 2005

PRIME Minister Tony Blair has personally promised to "look into" the new licensing laws scandal which could force hundreds of village halls into bankruptcy.

Occasional liquor licences for hundreds of village events ranging from harvest suppers to Christening parties have for years been important fund-raisers helping volunteer committees pay for vital upkeep.

Until now, a license for such events cost £30 for five years. Under the new licensing acts, which is also causing chaos for thousands of pubs and rural events like agricultural shows, would put that cost up to £1,090 - a staggering 3,600% increase - and involve much complex paper work.

Most villager halls are elderly buildings and need constant maintenance to meet modern health and safety standards. Many would face closure without the income generated by occasional licenses.

Presented with a barrage of criticism in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Blair promised he would "look into it."

The legislation has already cast a shadow over the future of small country events like shows, gymkhanas and point-to-point races. Scores of pubs in the Yorkshire Dales have so far failed to register because the red-tape involved is so complicated.


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