New policy for events on SHDC land 'removes ambiguity, inequality and inconsistency'

By Chris Derrick in Politics

A new “consistent and standardised” pricing plan for events held on South Hams District Council land was recommended by the council’s executive last week.

The new policy, which if approved by full council will come into effect from April 2018, will see a £55 administration fee on booking events. This amounts to an increase of £5 on the current rate, but applicable to all bookings, including community and charity events. However, organisers of community events will be able to apply for the administration fee to be paid for out of their district councillor’s £2,000 locality allowance.

But the council has said that if a car park needs to be closed to allow the running of an event, a fee equal to the estimated lost car parking income will be charged based on data. Where it can be proved by the council that car parking availability has not been affected in the town or parish, despite the event being held, then no loss of parking charge will be made.

Conservative Cllr Rufus Gilbert, executive portfolio holder for commercial services said: “This is the culmination of a year’s work, and shows that the consultation worked well and we listened to the community.

“Reviewing how we currently do things and applying a standard tariff across the whole district is the only fair way to manage these events. There were so many deviations from any kind of existing strategy, that the existing process benefited some communities and was totally unfair to others.

“We asked officers to conduct a thorough review, including two public consultations, one between June and August 2016 and another between March and April 2017.

“We have carefully considered all of the comments raised and have now presented a policy in front of the executive members of the council, asking them to recommend to full council that the policy be adopted and come into effect from April 1, 2018.”

Cllr Gilbert continued: “This policy will enable council officers to apply the policy consistently across all events, it is not a policy designed to generate a profit for the council, but to make sure that council staff can more easily support event organisers by having a clear charging system and policy to follow.

"Just to be clear this means that no charge will be made for the hire of any event land, except where the right to hold the event is awarded via a formal tender process," Cllr Gilbert added.

A SHDC spokesman said: “Until now, there has been no set policy or pricing plan for events which are held on the land owned by South Hams. Last year, councillors at SHDC asked officers if it would be possible to prepare a policy to create a consistent approach and standardised pricing across all of the events that are held annually across the district on council land.

“A large number of events are currently supported by the council, from major festivals and regattas to smaller village and community events. The way we support events, varies by event and how it is organised and whether it is organised for commercial or community gain.

“The policy is written to ensure that the council makes the best use of tax payer money and to make sure that the council’s resources are utilised fairly and consistently across all communities.

“This means that where services are provided to one event or community, these services are paid for by that community and not subsidised at the expense of another. This new policy looks to remove ambiguity, inequality and inconsistency which currently exists.”

The policy and guidance was recommended by the executive and is subject to approval by full council on Thursday, July 27.

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