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Life boat crews in fees hike

PUBLISHED: 16:40 22 October 2008 | UPDATED: 10:12 23 August 2010

IN ACTION: Crews fear impact of fees rise.

IN ACTION: Crews fear impact of fees rise.

VITAL lifeboat crews fear they could be hit with a 600 per cent increase in fees, costing them a whopping £260,000 for a UK licence. Currently the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) pays under £40,000 but changes to the broadcasting spectrum from A

VITAL lifeboat crews fear they could be hit with a 600 per cent increase in fees, costing them a whopping £260,000 for a UK licence.

Currently the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) pays under £40,000 but changes to the broadcasting spectrum from April could result in the hike.

On-shore lifeboat station personnel use the VHF radio frequencies to communicate with crews on boats. They are also used by vehicles which launch lifeboats and for the paging system used to call out crews in an emergency.

Ian Dunkley, station manager at Gravesend RNLI, in Royal Pier Road, Gravesend, said: "Our fundraisers will have to try even harder if these changes do take place.

"This land-based system that is affected is an absolutely vital part of our equipment. We can't work without it. The RNLI should not really have to pay any fee, let alone the figure we could be expected to find."

The RNLI currently pays a 50 per cent discounted fee of £38,000-a-year for its VHF licence but a new proposed fee would be £260,000.

Regulator Ofcom has suggested charities might receive a 50 per cent discount, bringing the new fee to £130,000. Mr Dunkley added: "We are taking this very seriously. We really need to stress to Ofcom how important it is that we should be considered a special case.

"We are encouraging people to contact Ofcom and make it known if they feel the same as we do. The RNLI receives no government funding. We rely solely on charitable donations and fundraising and if this goes ahead it would be a terrible blow."

A spokesperson for Ofcom said: "Spectrum users, from taxi firms to ambulances to the MoD, pay to access the airwaves. Our proposals would bring the maritime and aeronautical spectrum users into line with these other users.

"As part of this process, we are asking whether charities, such as the RNLI, should receive a discount and what the level of that discount should be." To support the RNLI, visit www.ofcom.org.uk and respond to the consultation.

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