LETTER: Red tape stopped me raising cash for defibrillators in Ely years ago

I am interested to read about the uproar that has been caused by Sainsbury’s refusal of a defibrillator.

This is not the first time that this has happened in Ely; Some years ago, I used to appear as “The Ely Piper”, in costume, playing old English bagpipes, for the entertainment of tourists and passers-by. On those occasions, I was accompanied by collectors from Community First Responders and during the time I did it, raised annually around £1,500.

This money was used to buy additional defibrillators so that the responders could potentially save more lives. At that time, one of these machines cost about £600, so we were buying about two and a half a year!

I discovered an anomaly with the licensing system whereby buskers, which was what I was could play without a licence and keep any cash raised for themselves but because I chose to give it all away, the collectors, which was what the responders were, needed a licence for each occasion, which had to be booked six weeks in advance.

I decided that it would be much better if we could be more flexible, especially as inclement weather can prevent the playing of musical instruments outdoors, so I requested the chief executive to grant me a blanket permission to go out with the responders, whenever the sun was shining, to raise money.

I still have the reply I received from the licensing department at ECDC and was so annoyed by its inability to think outside the box, that I gave up in disgust.

In the ensuing three and a half year period, If my request had been granted, I would probably have raised enough to buy nearly another nine!

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Back then, I wrote to the local press explaining why I would not be seen in Ely any more and nobody cared or commented, not even the then local councillors.

The answer is, I suspect, that for some obtuse reason, ECDC wishes to discourage the use of defibrillators, and a word has been dropped into the ear of Sainsbury’s management, to that effect. That’s the only explanation I can come up with.