A deficit in the Shetland Islands Area Licensing Board accounts led board members to discuss the possibility of increasing fees.
SIC official Paul Wishart detailed the board’s accounts over the last 12 months, blighted by Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns, during its 21st June meeting.
Mr Wishart said: “It’s very much in line with other years except you will see a big drop off in occasional licences granted, that is very much Covid related.
“Coming to the finances there is a big difference there, in that total income has gone down by about £10k and the expenditure has gone up a little bit. So what we have this year is instead of having a surplus, there is actually a deficit of approximately £3k.
He added: “That’s something that could be taken into consideration when considering fees and I am proposing later on we put out a report to the board, specifically on fees, maybe next month.”
The suggestion, however, received a cautious response during questions and debate.
Stephen Leask asked: “Covid has impacted on the volume of licences, so that is why we see that shortfall in finances but once it comes back, hopefully, we wouldn’t see that deficit so if we were to raise our fees that could impact on the existing licensees through no fault of their own.
“One thing that concerns me is that raising fees is reactive rather than pro-active method to deal with the deficit.
“It is something we will have to discuss in the future as a board but I do feel the licensees and all the businesses have had a really difficult year due to Covid and I think that is something we have to take into consideration because I feel we will be back on track again.
“I don’t think we should be too reactive.”
Mr Wishart replied: “We have a duty to break even. It is difficult to know how things are going to go in the next year or so but we have seen in the last wee while a good number of occasional licences.
“So I think it fair to assume that we are going to get back to some kind of normality and see the figures increasing.”
The full report on fees will be presented to the board in August, suggested Mr Wishart.