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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Litter or comedy?

Is red tape stifling creativity. That is certainly the implication of this article in today's Telegraph. They say that comedy nights, arts festivals and local music venues are being driven out of business by councils demanding hefty fees for the right to hand out leaflets.
Al Murray, the comedian, and Harvey Goldsmith, the entertainment promoter, are among more than 100 signatories to a letter in the paper campaigning for a change in the law.

The paper says that about one in three councils restrict leafleting, with charges running to hundreds of pounds per day. They add that enforcement is so stringent that a Hertfordshire branch of the Women’s Institute was threatened with an £80 fine for advertising a local charity exhibition without seeking an official licence:

“These rules have been catastrophic for local organisations such as theatres, village halls, comedy clubs and small nightclubs, which rely on leafleting to build an audience but cannot afford such fees,” the letter says.
It points out that a licence to hand out flyers in Basildon on a Saturday costs £350.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 allows local authorities to designate areas “where it is satisfied that the land is being defaced by the discarding of free printed matter”.

The legislation was brought in to prevent littering, but opponents claim charges are “prohibitively expensive” and beyond the pockets of promoters staging small-scale events.

According to the campaign, several West End comedy nights have collapsed - and audiences for others have been drastically reduced - after Westminster Council introduced rules on leafleting.

The paper reports that Lord Clement-Jones, the Lib Dem peer, is planning to bring a private member’s bill requesting an exemption from leafleting restrictions for small-scale cultural and community events.

He said: “The Act already provides exemption for political and religious leafleting, or leafleting on behalf of a charity.

“A wider exemption would avoid the unnecessary penalisation of small-scale events that are so valuable to community life.”

I have not come across this issue in Wales so it is new to me. However, if it is having the effect cited then a rethink is clearly needed.
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