A letter in the Daily Telegraph from over 100 signatories including comedian Al Murray, Radiohead manager Brian Message, Live Nation boss Paul Latham and promoter Harvey Goldsmith says 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 with campaigners saying that the cost of licensing is having “catastrophic” effect on the arts. Around one in three councils restrict leafleting, with charges running to hundreds of pounds per day. The letter points out that a licence to hand out flyers in Basildon on a Saturday costs £350 – although many find the practice itself annoying with one commentator saying “comedy nights, arts festivals and local music venues are probably the biggest producers of litter and detritus in our communities” which councils then have to clear up, and others pointing out that digital solutions such as e-flyers and social networking are a much cleaner solution.
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” (or litter!) where a licence is required, but campaigners argue that local authorities are using the provisions as a source of revenue. 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 pointing out that “The Act already provides exemption for political and religious leafleting, or leafleting on behalf of a charity” and saying “A wider exemption would avoid the unnecessary penalisation of small-scale events that are so valuable to community life.”