A MINEHEAD amusement arcade operator has hit out at new licence fees calling them a "kick in the teeth".

Warren Matthews, who owns Merlins seafront amusement arcade, Warren Road, said he was facing a massive 1,000% hike for a license to allow him to operate.

Mr Matthews told the County Gazette: "The rise is staggering.

"I can't just pass the increase on to my customers.

"It looks as though I, and other similar businesses in the town, will just have to live with the rise, or give up."

He said until now he had been paying £250 for a three-year license.

But under the new regime, his license would cost £1,500 every year.

The fees are coming in as a result of the Gaming Act of 2005, and are being collected by district councils.

Mr Matthews said: "We are being asked to pay up front for this.

"I understand the council may not know what work it has to do in issuing and enforcing new licenses, but it is not fair to charge us this much before knowing what the costs will be."

Ian Timms, West Somerset Council's licensing manager, told a meeting of the council's cabinet on Tuesday: "We have to cover the costs of administering these licences on a cost recovery basis.

"Costs can only be estimated in the first year, and can be adjusted in subsequent years."

He added refunds could be on the cards if it was found too much had been charged.