Charges for village hall music

Village halls could fall silent and charities and fundraising events be hit by new charges for playing music. Until now not-for-profit organisations such as charities, local groups and village halls have been exempt from one of the two licences needed to play recorded music in public.

Village halls could fall silent and charities and fundraising events be hit by new charges for playing music.

Until now not-for-profit organisations such as charities, local groups and village halls have been exempt from one of the two licences needed to play recorded music in public.

But from April they will have to pay an extra fee, even if the only use of music is volunteers listening to the radio while sorting clothes in a charity shop.

East Anglian charities warned last night that it will take money away from vital services - while some village halls could have to cancel events and turn away bookings.

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The level of fees is yet to be set, but the cost is likely to be in the region of �100 a year. The fee will be charged on each site, so charities with more than one shop will be hit by multiple fees.

Fundraising events which are held in venues which do not otherwise have a licence will be hit particularly hard, and there were also warnings that older people might suffer because tea dances and friendship groups that play music will carry an extra burden.

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Julian Goody, secretary of the Norfolk Association of Village Halls, said he feared some village halls would have to stop playing music, saying: “A lot will probably have to stop, and they will have to forgo some bookings. It is a difficult situation.”

Exercise classes, children's parties, pantomimes and plays could all be affected if they are in a village or community hall that is facing the new charge.

Phil Wells, chief executive of Age Concern Norwich, said: “I am concerned about the impact it will have on many informal groups, such as friendship groups, that are desperately needed to help ensure older people do not lose social contact as they get older.”

Keith Saxton, chairman of Rockland St Mary parish room, said: “There is so little money in a parish room that we will have to say there is definitely going to be no music played. We only charge �7 per session, and what with insurance and lighting and heating, quite frankly there is no profit at all. We can't put our prices up, because people look around for the cheapest place and will go elsewhere.”

Bill Barker, chairman of the Norfolk Association of Village Halls, said the majority of village halls were run by volunteers who give up time for the benefit of the parish. “Even it if it is just �100, that is money they have got to find on top of all their other costs,” he added.

The only exceptions will be for domestic events such as weddings, music used for therapy and music played to hospital and hospice patients.

Until now charities have had to pay a fee to PRS (Performing Right Society), which represents songwriters and publishers, but were exempt from the fee to PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd), which represents performers and record companies. The government says the changes make the system simpler and more equal and take account of international law.

A spokesman for the Intellectual Property Office, the government office which has brought in the changes, said: “Charities and not-for-profit organisations need to be protected from excessive costs, but we also need to ensure that musicians and performers, most of whom earn less than �15,000 a year, receive a fair reward for their creativity.”

A spokesman for PPL said that charities were involved in a consultation about the level of fees, which will run until April. He said: “Historically charities have always paid PRS for Music but haven't paid PPL, but now they will have to. Not-for-profit organisations will be able to pay a joint fee to us and PRS - we are trying to ease the administrative burden.”

Charities warn that their services and funds will suffer as a result of the new charges.

Simon Hempsall, from East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH), said the changes would have a “huge impact” on fundraising events. “Each year individuals across East Anglia organise thousands of fetes, dances and events on our behalf, and we organise our own events such as Ride for Life and Santa runs, which all benefit massively from the atmosphere created by background music.

“Adding this additional and unnecessary charge to local charities like EACH is just baffling.”

He added that the charges would also affect EACH's musical family fun days, Christmas parties, and memory services for bereaved families, and said the extra charge would have to be met through public donations.

North Norfolk-based charity Break, which provides respite breaks and care for families with disabilities, expects to pay an extra �3,000 or more in new fees across its 37 shops. Lesley Leigh, Break's retail manager, said: “This is yet another blow to our charity shops. Not only is this extra cost not budgeted for, but our electricity and refuse collection fees are rising, and we have also suffered from shops unable to open, due to the recent bad weather. All these extra costs mount up and so we are in need of really good-quality donations to counter balance the impact of this expenditure on our profit margins."

Dianne Rowe, from the Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House in Snettisham, said: “This will undoubtedly have a detrimental impact on our events and the resultant income to the hospice. We also have three hospice shops. It would be a shame not to be able to create a welcoming atmosphere for our customers or allow our volunteers not to listen to music whilst sorting through bags of donated goods.

“The additional licence fee will mean that less money can be used to provide the vital care which we give to our patients and their families.”

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