The Leafleting Deregulation Campaign -Good News!
See The Manifesto Club summary of the good news on the new guidance which has been issued by DEFRA
For the guidance see here:
And here is the background to how we got there
Up and down the country local authorities using powers introduced into the Environmental Protection Act 1990 by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 have been restricting leafleting for cultural events, including performances at comedy clubs, theatres, music venues art galleries and even village halls.
As a result of the 2005 Act, councils can designate areas within which people must buy a licence to hand out leaflets. Nearly a third of councils now restrict leafleting, and licences are prohibitively expensive – £350 for a Saturday in Basildon;
£50 per person per day in Oldham and Rugby; £262 per distributor in Wolverhampton.
These rules have been catastrophic for local organisations which rely on leafleting to build an audience, but cannot afford such fees.
A flyer ban in Leicester Square caused the collapse of several comedy nights and a dramatic reduction of audiences. One Women’s Institute was threatened with a fine for handing out leaflets about their art exhibition. Oxford student societies and arts events have to pay £100 a month for leafleting. The leafleting licence system in Brighton caused the decline of smaller, more experimental music nights, who cannot afford the fee.
All the while of course professional leaflet companies can afford to carry on distributing literature.
The Environmental Protection Act already provides exemption for political and religious leafleting, or leafleting on behalf of a charity. A wider exemption for such events with an audience of 500/600 would avoid the unnecessary penalisation of informal events that are so valuable to community life.
Leafleting is a key civic freedom, with a long tradition in this country going back at least to the late 17th century when the requirement for printers to be licenced was lifted, and should not be restricted without very good reason.
Problems with litter should be dealt with through provision of litter bins and other common-sense measures not by placing restrictions on our civil rights. Leaflets advertising cultural events, an important expression of our community activity, should not be treated in the same way as a burger wrapper or crisp packet.
The Manifesto Club mounted a significant petition demonstrating public support for an exemption for cultural and community events and in May 2013 I introduced a new private members bill- the rather grandly titled Cultural and Community Distribution Deregulation Bill- in order to change the law.
The Second Reading in the Lords took place on the 5th July 2013 during which Lord De Maulay the DEFRA Minister pledged to change the guidance to Councils. Not a whole loaf but a step in the right direction.
Then followed a serious discuss with Government about how we could amend the Guidance given to local authorities about how to enforce the litter legislation in way that does not penalize small live events.
After discussions with Lib Dem DEFRA Minister Dan Rogerson MP, DEFRA issued a consultation on Local Authority controls on the distribution of literature as follows:
The Consultation ended in June 2014 and the resulting new guidance, welcomed by many arts and community organisations is the subject of the Manifesto Group’s blog.