19 Jan 2016 – The MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation has announced it will hike range charges from April this year, while civilians will not be trained to operate SARTS targetry.
Charges for non-MoD organisations to use MoD ranges, which are ‘owned’ by the DIO and administered by the contractor Landmarc, will increase from 1 April.
In a letter sent to the NRA and reproduced on the association’s website by regional ranges manager Nic Couldrey, Brigadier Frank Noble, head of DIO Service Delivery Training, wrote: “The charge increases are made against a backdrop of austerity and the need to ensure MOD is being efficient within the resources allocated.”
We are now in the second year of the new National Training Estate Prime (NTEP) contract on the DIO Training Estate. This contract has seen significant savings and efficiencies in the contract price. It has also meant that the Prime Contractor, Landmarc Support Services (LSS), have had to make significant changes to their business model to meet this challenge. in particular they now have fewer staff.
According to the letter, “the actual costs on some facilities were not being covered” by existing range hire fees, which Brig Noble said breached a Treasury policy that requires MoD to recover its full costs from outside organisations using its facilities.
Fees for MoD ranges have not increased since 2012. Most shooters will be aware of the full cost recovery argument, as it was used by police in their abortive attempt to quadruple firearms licensing fees in 2014.
In a worrying development for cost-conscious clubs, Brig Noble added: “SARTS introduces a level of complexity that means the occasional or casual users are not able to operate it efficiently and safely. This therefore requires Training Area Operatives [range wardens] to operate SARTS for such users.”
Range wardens, who are paid for by clubs during their bookings, will cost a minimum of £28.71 per hour. Their attendance is mandatory. Time and a half is £31.78, while double time is £41.72 – and all fees exclude VAT. Clubs must pay for a minimum of 3 hours of warden time plus the warden’s travelling time on top of that.
In addition, the MoD Range Licence is increasing from £100 to £130 per annum. Again, this fee excludes VAT.
The fee of £36 per non-electric gallery range is an increase of 20% on the previous price of £30 per lane but does include the target. Minimum gallery range booking is 2 lanes.
UKSN comment: This is a barmy level of fees and will price clubs off the ranges
UK Shooting News’ author, ever one for breaking out the calculator, looked at the cost of the simplest range facility: the indoor range. These will be familiar to every shooter in the land.
Hiring an indoor range from the MoD means firstly that you have bought the MoD range licence. This is £156 including VAT. However, let’s be charitable and discount that cost for the time being.
You must hire at least 4 lanes to use an indoor range. For some bizarre reason the cost of hiring an indoor range (typical length 25m) is £60/lane; almost double the fee to hire an outdoor range of several hundred metres’ length. So, the minimum indoor range hire fee is £240. We must then add on the range warden fee, which, using the time-and-a-half rate for 6 hours, comes to a total of £430.68. Splitting that between a dozen shooters comes to £35 per head per day, not including anything needed to actually shoot, i.e. gun, ammo, mats and scopes, etc.
Why would any sane club consider paying this sum when civilian smallbore ranges, available at a much more competitive price, are relatively widespread?
Compared with the NRA’s per-lane fee of £99/day for Century or Stickledown ranges at Bisley during high season, the net cost of hiring two lanes at Bisley (£198) works out far cheaper than the MoD’s gallery range price of £326.24 – a 60% premium. That is based on the MoD’s two lane minimum hire fee, plus 8 hours of the range warden on the time-and-a-half rate to make it a fair comparison to the NRA’s standard hours.
UKSN’s author wonders how the fee hike news will be received by clubs away from Bisley whose only fullbore shooting options are their nearest MoD ranges.