Licence fee rises are likely to be significantly smaller than the hike to £200 proposed by the police, BASC has said.
Director of communications Christopher Graffius, who sits on the working group looking into licensing costs, told Shooting Times that BASC was working to ensure that the shooting community was not treated as a source of easy revenue. He vowed to keep fees fair, saying that: “Many of those calling for unrealistic fees do not appreciate that firearms ownership is not a luxury for many people, who use them as tools.”
The review began late last year at the instigation of BASC, after the Home Office proposed fee increases that did not secure the support of all members of the Cabinet. Police argued that the current licensing system costs forces £17million each year and that the current fee of £50 for a five-year certificate did not cover enough of the estimated £200 it cost to process and administer each application.
However, ministers and shooting groups were not satisfied with the accuracy of these figures and the working group, which includes representatives from BASC, the police, the British Shooting Sports Council, the Countryside Alliance, the Home Office and DEFRA, was established in October 2013, tasked with deconstructing the licensing process and providing accurate costings for each element. The new fee system for shotgun and firearms certificates could be in place by early 2015.
Mr Graffius said: “It is crucial to ensure that shooting does not become merely the sport of the rich and remains a sport which everyone can participate in and enjoy.”
He added that, while fees would almost certainly rise for the first time in more than 10 years, BASC had worked closely with the Home Office and the police to ensure a fair price for a fair service.
The aim of the review is to provide accurate information on which to base future fee structures and highlight areas where efficiency can be improved.
The news offers reassurance to shooters after reports in the mainstream media during the Easter period of police and politicians calling for dramatic increases and warnings of dire consequences if fees did not rise.
Warwickshire police and crime commissioner Ron Ball recently called for an increase in West Mercia and Warwickshire, initially going up to £92, then rising to £200, saying: “The prices have not gone up since 2001 and we’re currently only recovering approximately a quarter of the costs of processing shotgun and firearms licences, and that doesn’t seem correct to me.”
Andy Marsh, chief constable of Hampshire police, said that: “There is a likelihood of a significant backlog in grant and renewal without an increase in the costs of a licence. Without the staffing levels constantly to reassess risk, it could lead to an increased threat of harm,” adding that: “We have seen other fees such as drivers’ licences and passports rise on a full cost recovery, which I think is the right thing to do.”
Liberal Democrat Home Office minister Norman Baker, who currently has responsibility for firearms licensing, was quoted in The Guardian as being frustrated by the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron and environment secretary Owen Paterson had reportedly “blocked” moves to increase charges in 2013, saying: “The current position is difficult to justify — why should the police subsidise the issuing of licences for firearms? We are driving greater efficiencies in the way the police handle applications, which will bring the cost of issuing down, but firearms users also need to pay a fair amount, which is not happening at the moment. I hope to be able to reach a sensible outcome in the near future.”