Isn\’t it wonderful? The forms are being filled out, the paperwork checked. Thoughtful bureaucrats, those creatures of near divine omniscience, are making sure that everything is simply ticketty boo in this green and pleasant land. Of course, there are some very slight teething problems:
Dozens of small circuses are facing financial ruin, bogged down by new rules and paperwork which have forced them to cancel performances, send home the clowns and pension off much loved performing animals.
The main problem is the impact of the Licensing Act that came into force at the end of 2005 and which requires circuses to apply for a licence for every site they visit. These cost up to £1,000 each and take at least 28 days to process and frequently much longer.
This has robbed circuses of their traditional flexibility, which involves picking venues at short notice after taking into account factors such as local economics and the weather. It has also meant that if a site is unusable, because of flooding, for instance, the circus cannot move to an alternative venue, even if it is an adjoining field, because this would require a fresh licence.
Circuses can seek a £21 temporary permit, but this takes at least two weeks to process. It restricts the numbers of performances and size of audiences, and results in circuses performing in front of dozens of empty seats.
Almost all travelling circuses have had to cancel performances this year because they cannot get new licences in time. Many have endured weeks on end of sitting idle.
But no complaints from us, no siree! After all, it\’s better that the paperwork is in order rather than people actually doing what they want, isn\’t it? Better that permission is properly granted than that children go to the circus to see the clowns? Vastly better that the Man from the Council, who really does know best, take two weeks to allow a tent to move from one field to the next?
Just think what anarchy would prevail if all of this were not controlled, not under the watchful eye of our glorious neighbourhood commissars!
What do you think this is? A free country or something?