The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has submitted a proposal to the Government to increase the fees for firearms and shotgun certificates from £50 to £93.80, which represents an 88% increase.
The fee for renewals would also be increased from £40 to £66, which is an increase of 65%, and new charges would be introduced for licensing clay shoots.
The move has prompted strong reactions from many fieldsports bodies, including BASC and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO).
However, the ACPO Administration of Firearms and Explosives Licensing Working Group (FELWG) proposal documents claim that firearms licensing “is not part of core policing duties and therefore the cost of firearms licensing should not be borne by the public purse”.
Bill Harriman, BASC’s director of firearms, said in a statement: “Some police forces produce long and unacceptable delays in the process. We are seeing improvements in some areas, but not in all. The police have official Home Office guidance, which should be setting consistent standards, but our experience shows that, in practice, this is far from the case.”
“Certificate holders should pay a fair price for a fair service and BASC wishes to see that fair service put in place. Neither certificate holders nor the taxpayer should have to pay for inefficiency. BASC is talking to the police and to the Government and discussions are ongoing.”
The NGO has also expressed its dismay at the move.
A spokesman said: “The licensing of firearms and shotguns is to keep the public safe. It has no benefit to the licence holder. Licensees have always paid about a third of the overall cost, which is more than their share for a system designed for the public benefit.”
“Governments have accepted that the balance should come from central funds. For the police to argue now that licensing is not a police duty, when legislation has required them to undertake it since 1920, is simply extraordinary. Whenever anyone has suggested that a civilian authority could be a more appropriate vehicle for licensing, the police have always insisted on retaining responsibility.”
The NGO has written to the policing minister, Nick Herbert MP, urging the Government to reject the proposals.
In the letter, the NGO says: “Frankly, if the fees are increased without a really serious move to sort out unfair and sloppy administration by the police, there will be real anger in the countryside.”
“If best practice was followed, particularly in relation to routine renewals, then surely there would be savings to be made.”
Chief constable Andy Marsh told Shooting Times: “Currently police forces spend approximately £25million each year on firearms licensing and recover only a small proportion of this, estimated at about £6.5million. This significant difference led me to submit a proposal to the Home Office outlining a moderate increase when viewed against inflation in the chargeable fees.”
“Many people will be surprised to learn that fees have not increased for more than 10 years and have not followed inflationary trends, making this review long overdue and perhaps representing the proposed increase unfavourably in the absence of a fuller explanation.”
“My proposal has also been measured and balanced by a good deal of consultation and dialogue with shooting organisations that represent certificate holders, which has led to a figure that takes into account inflation, with a step towards a fairer proportion of the cost being recovered.”
“It is my goal to arrive at an increase that leaves shooters feeling they have paid a fair price for a fair system and good service. I ask the shooting community to recognise that this current large shortfall, between the actual cost and current fees, needs to be reduced to aid further and ongoing developments.”