Anger at Brent Council plans to charge campaigners handing out leaflets

Residents would have to acquire a licence under new proposals

Brent Council has been accused of trying to gag campaigners and restrict free speech after it announced plans to ban leafleting around the borough.

Instead, anyone who wants to hand out free literature would have to apply for a licence at a cost of �175.

The new restrictions would not apply to charities, religious organisations or political parties.

But community groups campaigning on local issues would have to apply for a licence.

Graham Durham, who campaigned against the closure of six libraries in Brent, said: “It is an absolute scandal.

“Leafleting is key to informing large numbers of people about matters in the area.

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“It would be a severe restriction to the democratic rights of citizens.

“The library campaign, which brought all members of the community together, was built on leafleting and letting people know what was going on in the area.”

Kate Spence, who helped in the campaign to save Willesden Green Library from demolition, said: “Campaign groups feel it is important that they are able to inform people with leaflets because not everyone has access to the internet. We found that leafleting was an effective way of raising awareness. This should be allowed in a democratic society.”

The restrictions would also apply to the distribution of free newspapers.

But the council says it is trying to combat litter especially in the run up to the Olympic Games.

The areas where the ban would be in place include Kilburn High Road, Cricklewood Broadway, Willesden High Road, Walm Lane, Harlesden High Street, Bridge Road Wembley, Olympic Way and Kingsbury Road.

Anyone wanting to distribute would have to pay �175 and apply 14 days before. A re-submission fee would cost a further �75.

People handing out leaflets would be forced to wear an authorised badge and a hi-visibility tabard.

Pubs and bars would not be allowed to promote any nights that offer discount drinks or promotions.

Anyone caught distributing without a licence could be prosecuted and face a �2,500 fine.

A council spokesman said: “If the proposals to license free literature distribution are agreed they will give Brent Council much more effective powers to tackle this important issue.

“Charities would be exempt from these new rules and political parties would be exempt during election times.

“The rules would apply to businesses, residents’ organisations and other groups. “Brent Council does not think this would adversely affect residents’ or other groups because they are still able to distribute leaflets directly to residents in their own homes or through the mail.”

The plans will be discussed at Brent Town Hall, in Forty Lane, Wembley, on April 23.