Memorandum submitted by Cllr Marian J Lewis

I live in Chepstow and from time to time attend live concerts in a small church across the Severn Bridge in Aust. These concerts are typically performances by small groups of players interested in early music, and European folk music, and attract audiences of around 100-150. They are organised by Music in the Church at Aust which is a charity, and a glass of wine is available to the audience in the interval.

Under the old regime churches were exempt from entertainment licences but obtained alcohol licences from their local magistrates' court. This meant appearing in court the first time, but thereafter it was just a matter of completing a single A4 form for each event. Up to ten at a time could be submitted, and it cost 10 per submission.

For Aust Music that meant typically ten A4 forms to complete and a cost of ten pounds per year.

Under the new act, there is a six page form for each event, and it costs 21 for each and every event. For Aust Music that means sixty pages of forms to fill in and a cost of 210 per year. Furthermore, because at present they use temporary licences, there is a limit to how many the venue can have and how many the chairman can have. His limit is five, so once that is reached he has to persuade other people to apply for the licence.

The alternative is a permanent licence, as a local pub would have. The venue would have to have a licence and the chairman would have to have his own personal licence. Both would cost several hundred pounds with renewal fees every year and, for the personal licence, he would have to go on a course on how to run a bar - so he could pour out a few glasses of wine during concert intervals. The venue licence would apply to the church only so, if, for example, Aust Music wanted to run an event in the village hall or elsewhere in the village, the charity would still need to get temporary licences at 21 a time.

The 2003 Act is one of the reasons the concert tickets cost more than they used to, and why they are booking groups of two or three performers, rather than four or five.

The activities of this worthy charity have been severely restricted, and we consider that the new Act has had an adverse impact on the performance of live music for this type of small concert. The financial impact on a small charity is outlined above, and it has certainly not led to a reduction in bureaucracy - also outlined above!

July 2008