MEAN FIDDLER ATTACK NEW GOVERNMENT PLANS

The Carling Weekend: Reading and Leeds festival organisers speak out against new proposed licencing fees...

MEAN FIDDLER, the firm who run the CARLING WEEKEND: READING AND LEEDS festivals have attacked government plans to impose new licence fees for outdoor concerts and other events.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) want to levy fees of up to £50,000 to cover the cost of health and safety inspections.

Events which attract 6,000 people or more would be liable for charges starting at £5,000 rising to a £50,000 levy of those events which held more than 75,000 people.

Licences from local authorities already have to be paid by event organisers, but levels vary. The DCMS says that it now wants to apply a standard charge across the country to ensure public safety at festivals.

Mean Fiddler have said the proposal was “disappointing”.

Managing director of the firm 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.”

He added: “ On the continent, they will put money into events, while in the UK, festivals happen despite the government and local authorities.”

The operational charge of the Glastonbury festival was taken over by Mean Fiddler in 2002 and the company have helped secure its licences for the past two events from the local council in Somerset.

A spokesman for the DCMS said that the money raised by the charges would fund inspections of equipment and venues, adding: “This isn’t a tax on fun, we won’t compromise public safety.”

Benn has responded saying: “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.”

He also added that although all of Mean Fiddler’s events would be affected by the proposed fees, none would be put at risk.

The proposed charges, if introduced, could be withdrawn after a year if it was found that the system was not working, the DCMS have said.

The spokesman also said that festival organisers and other groups had been consulted, and that local authorities would still be free to help fund events if they wished.