Increases in firearms licensing fees announced by the Government today are a step in the right direction, says Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles. But he believes that the police budget will still be subsidising the service.
Mr Charles has strongly campaigned for increases that will enable the police to recover all the processing costs arising from their role in issuing the licences.
“Police forces are facing a continuing barrage of cuts to their budgets, yet they are having to absorb the costs involved in licensing firearms for recreation, sport or work purposes,” he said. “This is money that comes from the public purse and I really don’t see how this can be justifiable.”
The Association of Chief Police Officers has previously said that the licensing system costs the public an estimated £23.7m annually yet the police only recover about a quarter of this total in fees.
Today’s announcement means that fees will be increased on 6th April, which will be the first time since 2001. The increases will see the cost of a firearms certificate rise from £50 to £88 and a shotgun certificate from £50 to £79.50. Renewals of firearms certificates will go up from £40 to £62 and shotgun certificates from £40 to £49.
The changes being made are intended to allow police forces to recover the full cost of running the firearms licensing service once the on-line system that is currently being developed is operational. Ultimately, the aim is to end the current, unsustainable process for the police and in its place produce a more effective system that will benefit forces, licence holders and the general public.
Commissioner Charles commented: “I am pleased that the Government plans to work with the police to introduce the on-line system and that they intend to review it in a year’s time to assess whether costs are, indeed, being fully recovered. However, the safety of the public must be absolutely maintained when any new system is introduced.
“But recommendations from the Association of Chief Police Officers were that the cost of applying for a licence would need to almost double to help fund the administration process. Since the increases to be introduced next month are considerably less than that, I expect that further upward adjustments will have to be made – and hopefully sooner rather than later.”