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Last Updated: Friday, 24 December, 2004, 12:56 GMT
Festivals boss attacks fee plan
Glastonbury Festival
Large events like Glastonbury may have to pay 50,000
One of the UK's biggest music festival promoters has attacked government plans to impose new licence fees for outdoor concerts and other events.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport wants to levy fees of up to 50,000 to cover the cost of health and safety inspections.

Mean Fiddler, the firm which runs the Reading and Leeds festivals, said it was "disappointing".

The DCMS said it wanted to ensure the public were safe at festivals.

The charges would apply for events which attract 6,000 people or more, and would start at 5,000, rising to a 50,000 levy on events which held more than 75,000 people.

Event organisers already have to pay for licences from local authorities, but levels vary and the DCMS said it wanted to apply a standard charge across the country.

UK producers and promoters lead the way and have done for years, without onerous charges
Melvin Benn
Mean Fiddler
Mean Fiddler managing director Melvin Benn told BBC News: "When I talk to my colleagues across Europe they're amazed that not only do we have to pay for licences, but that local authorities and central government don't contribute to festivals.

"On the continent, they will put money into events, while in the UK, festivals happen despite the government and local authorities."

'Not a tax on fun'

Mean Fiddler took over operational charge of the Glastonbury Festival in 2002, and has helped secure it licences for the past two events from its local council in Somerset.

A DCMS spokesman said: "This isn't a tax on fun, we won't compromise public safety."

He added the money raised by the charges would fund inspections of equipment and venues.

But Mr Benn said: "They're nice words, but when have we had a crowd safety issue in the UK?

"UK producers and promoters lead the way and have done for years, without onerous charges."

While all of Mean Fiddler's events would be affected by the proposed fees, none would be put at risk, Mr Benn added.

The DCMS said festival organisers and other groups had been consulted about the proposed charges, and if they were introduced, they could be withdrawn after a year if it was found the new system was not working.

The spokesman added local authorities would still be free to help fund festivals and other events, if they wished.

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