Brent Council rubber stamps plans to licence leafleting in the borough
Opponents fear changes will have dangerous implications for free speech
Brent Council has approved plans to licence leafleting despite organisations fearing it could have dangerous implications for free speech.
Under the proposals, a council licence will be needed to give out free flyers, leaflets, newsletters and newspapers in more than 30 streets in Brent.
The plans sparked fears that this could stop campaigners handing out leaflets.
Last week, the council issued a statement to the Times clearly stating that “charities would be exempt from these new rules and political parties would be exempt during election times.”
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It added: “The rules would apply to businesses, residents’ organisations and other groups.”
But now the council says campaigners were always excluded from the plans.
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However, volunteers in the borough including Tony Antonio OBE, chairman of Brent Safer Neighbourhood Team, are worried they do not fall into the categories.
He said: “We give out crime prevention advice but we do not know if we will have to pay?
“We are not a charity but a group of volunteers. The report needs to be clearer.”
Josie Appleton, director of Manifesto Club civil liberties group, said: “This is a major blow for public liberties.
“The biggest impact of leafleting licences is on grassroots arts and community initiatives.
“Political groups are exempt from the system - but local theatres, art exhibitions, music nights and summer fetes all fall squarely within its bounds. These groups simply cannot afford the cost of the licence.
“Leafleting licences favour bigger commercial operations who can afford the fees.
“It is the smaller groups that will suffer.”
Wembley resident Martin Francis said: “As a school governor, a document like that would have been thrown out by a governing body. “The Executive should send this poorly written report back to be properly researched and rewritten - they cannot vote for such an unclear policy.”
But Ann John OBE (Labour), leader of the council, said the report is clear and is purely about preventing litter. She said: “Most councils are passing plans like this in the lead up to the Olympics when there will be a huge amount of street adverts. “There are exemptions which include community safety literature. This is an anti-litter scheme. They will be doing this in all Olympic boroughs.”