Ofcom offers cash relief for lifeboats

Fears that lifeboats could be hit by a big bill under radio licence changes seem to be ebbing away.Earlier this month the RNLI aired concerns a planned revamp of ship and air radio fees could mean it having to find another £260,000 a year.

Fears that lifeboats could be hit by a big bill under radio licence changes seem to be ebbing away.

Earlier this month the RNLI aired concerns a planned revamp of ship and air radio fees could mean it having to find another £260,000 a year.

Concerns were voiced by the charity, and independent lifeboat stations around the East Anglian coast, about the possible impact on their fund-raising.

But an update on the Ofcom proposals has assured they are committed to supporting lifesaving charities, which

were even likely to end up paying less under the new scheme.

The RNLI feared its current £40,000 in fees for radios and pager systems, which get a 50pc discount, would rise 600pc, but now could see the bill halved to £20,000.

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It has welcomed the update from Ofcom, which would “enable us to direct those funds towards the RNLI's primary objective of saving lives at sea.”

Ideally, the charity said it would like to see a 100pc discount on radio licensing fees for all organisations involved with sea safety and life-saving, but “we appreciate this significant improvement on Ofcom's previous proposal,” said a spokesman.

Ofcom said it was aware of widespread concern during its consultation, which ended yesterday, but stressed it was committed to supporting lifeboats.

One option under consideration would allow charities such as the RNLI to benefit by paying lower fees in future than now by having a single UK-wide licence, which could take the charity's fees down to below £20,000.

More detailed plans about licence changes, due to start in 2010, are due out at the turn of the year. They were mainly aimed at a ports and airports according to Ofcom, which has also said there was unlikely to be any significant increase for coastguard, and no plans to charge mountain rescue teams.

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