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Council / Licensing board sees income drop by more than £10,000

SHETLAND’s licensing board recorded a deficit of nearly £3,000 over the last year as income reduced and staff costs increased.

It is a different picture compared to the previous year, which saw the board posted a surplus of more than £13,000.

Members of the board heard at a meeting on Monday that the restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic have had an obvious effect on licensing applications as events were ruled out.

The number of occasional licences granted in 2020/21 stood at only 12, compared to 126 the year before.

However, there has been a rise in the number of applications – which come with a £10 cost – since the start of April, the board heard.

In 2020/21 the board recorded income of around £50,292, while the expenditure was roughly £53,150.

This left a deficit of nearly £3,000, and represented a drop in income of more than £10,000.

The board responsible for regulating the sale of alcohol to the public and certain gambling activities by issuing alcohol licences and betting and gambling permits.

The board is made up of a number of councillors.

Council lawyer Paul Wishart, who was presenting the annual report, said it was his intention to bring a paper to a future meeting of the board on licence fees in response to the 2020/21 deficit.

He said the board has a duty to in effect break even every year.

But Lerwick councillor Stephen Leask warned against the impacts potentially raising fees could have on licence holders.

He was concerned over the potential for a “reactive rather than proactive” approach.

“I do feel that the licensees and all the businesses have had a really, really difficult year due to the Covid-19, and I think that’s something we have to take into consideration,” Leask said.

Shetland South member George Smith, however, said he felt the board was in danger of “getting ahead of itself” when talking about fees.

He also said the number of occasional licence applications increasing was a good indicator of community confidence in holding events.