Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles has joined calls for the Government to increase the cost of gun licensing fees –and force applicants to cover the full cost of processing them.
Commissioner Charles said current gun license application fees did not cover the administration costs of processing them which meant police forces had to heavily subsidise them – money which could be better spent on additional police officers. He described the system as “hypocritical” and likened it to a situation of using the public purse to pay for monthly gym memberships. Taxpayers’ should not be expected to foot the bill for a sporting pursuit which diverts money away from their own community safety, he added.
The Commissioner is one of a growing number of Police and Crime Commissioners to criticise the gun licensing process and charges, which have not been reviewed since 2001. The Association of Chief Police Officers has recommended the Government almost double the cost of applying for a license from £50 to more than £100 by 2015 to help fund the administration procedure.
The Home Office is currently carrying out a review of the licensing system and is engaging with the shooting community over potential plans to increase charges in due course, with the aim of recouping 50% of the cost.
Commissioner Charles said: “In these difficult times where we are cutting police officer posts and losing valuable resources it is absolutely hypocritical to be channeling hundreds of thousands of pounds into firearms licensing administration in the name of sport.
“On the one hand, we are continually telling the public that we are committed to spending their money wisely and protecting the frontline,only to be asking them on the other to financially sustain the leisure interests of a minority of residents. The public purse does not cover the cost of sport related individual gym memberships and no longer does it provide free swimming for the over 60s. Surely there needs to be a fairer system where applicants are made responsible for all of the processing costs so that taxpayers’money can be redirected to more widely beneficial areas of policing.”
The Association of Chief Police Officers has previously said the gun licensing system costs the public an estimated £23.7m annually. However, the police only recover about £6.4m of this total in fees.
Commissioner Charles said he supported ACPO’s efforts to encourage the Government to rebalance financial responsibility for gun licensing to release additional funds to police forces.
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Posted on Tuesday 29th October 2013