Kevin Perkins calls for anglers to grow some collective gonads
Are we revolting, or do we have good reason to be? I am struggling to see what justification there is for the grossly unfair imposition of a Rod Licence (Tax) on anglers.
Consider the scenario that if I dig a lake in my own very private back garden, I legally have to purchase a Rod Licence to fish in it, why? Just what have my actions got to do with the Environment Agency? If I build a tennis court, golf course, cricket pitch etc. etc., I don’t have to buy a Golf Club Licence, a Tennis Racket Licence, or a Cricket Bat Licence so why are anglers being singled out?
I don’t have to buy the aforementioned Club, Racket or Bat Licence to participate in any of those sports at any municipal facilities either. Now, those facilities will have been provided for and maintained by my local council, and the costs would have been met from Council Tax. And before anyone says they have to pay to use said facilities, be assured that they never ‘wash their face’ and are heavily subsidised. Any fees, subscriptions etc. will go nowhere near covering the original build and ongoing operating and maintenance costs.
So ask yourself (or perhaps more pertinently, ask your local council) why there isn’t a nice, subsidised angling venue near you, paid for out of your Council Tax. My own local council has some 106,000 residents generating £18.7m in income for the council. Of that, 7% is set aside for ‘leisure provision’, that’s £1.3m per annum, in fact, or just over £12 per resident. This £12 per year goes towards putting water in the local swimming baths (and heating it) grass on golf courses, football, rugby and cricket pitches, tennis court nets, boules courts, squash courts, croquet lawns, well, you get the picture. Now, with angling being one of the (allegedly) biggest participator sports, it follows that it should get a large percentage of that ‘leisure provision’ shouldn’t it?
And if you drill down a bit further into yours, and my, contribution to every other sport - bar angling - through taxation, just have a look at the detail on your Council Tax bill. You will see a precept payment to your local Town/Parish council. Now, you may or may not know that your Town/Parish council can/does set aside monies to make grants to their (that is your) local community. Many times these grants are to worthwhile causes such as coach trips for pensioners, wheelchair access ramps, play equipment for pre-school groups etc. etc.
But often there are requests for items such as local junior football team strips. Now, a full kit with training bibs and rain jackets usually comes out at £1,000. That works out around £70 for each of the ‘mummy’s little darling’, budding Wayne Rooneys in that team that you and I are paying for. And when I was a councillor, we had (and granted) around six to eight requests for junior team kits every season (the little chaps grow out of them, you see...)
While I’m going on about money being sloshed around on ‘minority’ sports, my own council had a rugby club foisted upon them due to their old ground and facilities being deemed not up to standard. Despite being in an area with little local interest in rugby (the club in question had less than 100 members) all objections were swept aside, a local park in the middle of a residential area was ‘handed over’ by the District Council and a new clubhouse, match pitches and floodlit training facilities were built at a cost of £2.5m. For every member of that rugby club that works out to £25,000 handout each of taxpayer’s money. Do you know of any individual angler or angling club round your way that have had that sort of money handed to them?
At one council meeting I did express my disbelief at so much being given to so few. With tongue jammed firmly in cheek I suggested that if a couple of local residents bemoaned the lack of provision for playing deck quoits I didn’t doubt that the District Council would have a decommissioned cruise liner hauled up the Ouzel and moored in a convenient place for said residents to be allowed to continue with their chosen sport. Suffice to say there were a few guffaws at this preposterous suggestion, but worryingly, there were a couple of nervous looks flashed between councillors which seemed to suggest that should the question of deck quoits come before the Council there might have to be a decision to be made. Can’t be seen to be discriminating against a minority sport now, can the...?
And how about the wider picture of financial support for sports (other than angling)? You cannot fail to be aware that we are staging the Olympics and Paralympics in London this year. Set aside for a moment the hundreds, nay probably thousands of millions of pounds being chucked at staging these events. Turn your thoughts instead to the thousands of competitors rocking up to take part in their chosen events. How many of them do you think will have to be in possession of a licence to allow them to take part in their respective sports before they set foot on the track or field? Mind you, it would be fun to watch an official trying to stop Usain Bolt in mid stride to check his ‘Spiked Shoes’ permit...!
So given the huge amounts of cash available to sports (other than angling) at all levels then why, oh why, are we saddled with the anachronism of a Rod Licence? The £25m or so it raises is a spit in the ocean compared to the amounts lavished on every other sport. Indeed, £1.50 added to, or better still, set aside from every Council Tax bill would raise the required amount without anyone even noticing. And for once, everyone would contribute to angling, as opposed to anglers having to pay extra for their sport (which is surely a case of double taxation?)
And what do the EA do with our £25m? A large proportion of it must go onto enforcement, over 124,000 licence checks were carried out last year, with 4,100 reported for licence offences. This is a chicken and egg situation, because if we didn’t need licences, the EA wouldn’t need to spend valuable resources on enforcement, and the monies raised in fines worked out at £160* per angler.
The solution to all this? Simple, we all refuse to buy a rod licence next season. Instead, the 1 million of us who do (did) buy a Rod Licence will contribute £15 each per year to the Angling Trust. If that is to be the body that is representing the welfare of anglers in this country then let’s give it a big enough war chest to get on and do something for us. The first item on the agenda to be bringing about the de-criminalisation of angling by scrapping the onerous Rod Licence. And then bung the EA the £650,000 ‘income’ it will lose through not persecuting anglers.
Instead, the enforcement officers can get out and prosecute to the hilt those who illegally trap or remove fish; surely the law should treat illegal fish removal at the same level as livestock rustling. And if a Closed season is to continue, then those who flout it can expect to feel the full weight of the law. Ramp up the punishments and hound the perpetrators until the message gets across. And with a £10-£15m war chest, the ATr can easily fund any actions against for fishery owners culling cormorants to protect their livelihood. If it’s OK to shoot dogs worrying sheep, where’s the difference in a fishery owner protecting his stocks (and livelihood)
So there we have it in my opinion, time for anglers to grow some collective gonads and stick up for themselves at last.
*Now here’s a thing which bugs me more than a little. The courts hand out fines of £160 for not having a £27 Rod Licence, that’s a six fold penalty for disobeying the law, and should be enough of a deterrent, although it’s pretty steep for something which could be called a victimless crime.
However, get caught driving a car without insurance (which I would rate as a somewhat higher misdemeanour) and that normally attracts an average fine of £110. As the average cost of car insurance is around the £400 mark, how is that a deterrent? Shouldn’t it be nearer £2400?