Monday 23 April 2012

Farce or Fascism? Brent approves restrictions on free distribution of literature

Needless to say Brent Executive rubber stamped the proposal on licensing leafleting on designated land this evening but were left in doubt that that their decision was based on a poorly researched and imprecise report with no detail on interpretation and every sign of having dangerous implications for free speech.

I can honestly say as a school governor that a document like that would have been thrown out by a governing body.  I told the Executive it was hard to decide whether their proposal was farce or fascism, but it was likely to fall between the two.

Despite Tara Brady of he Brent and Kilburn Times circulating a copy of the actual e-mail from the Brent Council which stated 'Charities would be exempt from these new rules and political parties exempt during  election times' Cllr James Powney insisted that all along they had meant all activities for political purposes would be exempt.

Cllr Powney dug himself further into a hole when he claimed the proposals were not just about the Olympics but long-term and across the borough, despite the report stating 'These controls are being sought now to assist with the effective control of literature distributors anticipated during the Olympic period in an attempt to reduce the amount of waste printed material deposited in certain areas of the borough'.

Those designated areas include streets far away from the Wembley Olympic venues such as Shoot Up Hill, Station Road Harlesden  and Edgware Road.

As Sarah  Cox said on behalf of Brent Fightback we should not have to rely on Cllr Powney's interpretation of phrases such a 'political purpose' but have precision and clarity in the documentation.

Small businesses and people organising  cultural events,  jumble sales and fund raising activities will be faced with high fees and restrictions on their activities.

There will now be a 14 day consultation but this is only about the Council's proposal to designate certain areas or roads where the licence will be required rather than the scheme as a whole.

Cllr Powney failed to answer a question from Cllr Helga Gladbaum on whether Brent Council had the capacity to enforce the proposed regulations.

Shahrar Ali, Green Party candidate for the London Assembly Brent and Harrow constituency said:

I can think of little more pernicious act than for a council to impose upon its citizens a requirement to seek advance approval for the dissemination of their literature, whatever was written upon it. It is no business of the council to restrict the free exercise of speech or to charge people for their exercise of it or to prevent readers from making up their own minds about whether they want to receive it or not. This is a dark day for Brent and surely one of the worst instances of this administration's evident contempt for the people.
You can read Brent Fightback's leaflet by click on the PDF below:

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