Friday, 27 April 2012

Fightback campaigns against Council's free literature licensing scheme

Attached is the report that last Monday's Brent Council Executive rubber stamped. It would require anyone distributing free literature - leaflets or newspapers - to apply for a licence (costing £175 and £75 to renew) 14 days in advance and then pay £65 per distributor per day or either £100 or £110 according to which paragraph you read if leaflets are given out before 8.00 am or after 6.00 pm. Distributors would have to wear an ID badge obtained from the Council and a hi-viz jacket provided by the 'promoter'. There are exemptions for the distribution of printed matter:
(a) by or on behalf of a charity within the meaning of the Charities Act 1993, where the printed matter relates to or is intended for the benefit of the charity
(b) where the distribution is for political purposes or for the purposes of religion or belief

Two Fightback supporters spoke at the executive but the points we raised and the questions we asked were ignored and brushed aside. Councillors insisted that the regulations were purely and simply designed to cut down on litter, but we believe that they could have dangerous implications for free speech and civil rights and that they are far from clear and transparent. This article from the Guardian spells out some of the adverse effects regulations like this have had when imposed by other councils:

See overview of the issue in the Guardian HERE
This pamphlet from the Manifesto Club spells them out in even more detail HERE

We are asking the Council to spell out clearly whom the regulations are intended to target - are they just aimed at commercial firms employing people to give out large numbers of leaflets or free newspapers? If so, that should be made clear in the regulations, if not there will be really harmful effects for small businesses, arts organisations, community groups, jazz and comedy clubs and others who only want to distribute small numbers of leaflets and who could not possibly afford the massive fees proposed in these regulations.

What is included in 'political purposes'? This is the term used in the enabling legislation  http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2005/16/part/3, but it is extremely ambiguous. It probably includes anti-war, anti-cuts and anti-fascist campaigning and certainly includes leaflets given out by political parties, but would it include leaflets supporting the Palestinian cause, campaigns against library closures, privatisation or climate change, for fairtrade, Friends of the Earth, support for striking workers?

The exemptions spelled out in the regulations as passed on Monday would not apply to community groups organising say, coffee mornings, to parent teacher associations advertising school concerts, to someone drawing attention to a plant sale at the farmers' market, to a newly opened restaurant or hairdresser letting people know that they are there, to a window cleaner setting up in business, pop-up shops the organisers of art exhibitions, supplementary schools, comedy clubs, music gigs ....... None of these could afford the licence fees, so they would either be unable to advertise their events or be forced to defy the regulations and risk prosecution. 
It would also be very unfair on the Council officers or police who will be expected to enforce confusing regulations.

There are also inconsistencies and  mistakes in the drafting of these regulations, and an assertion that there are no diversity or equality implications, which is questionable - some minority groups will be prevented from advertising their activities and their free newspapers will be banned.
We believe that unless they are drastically revised and clarified, these regulations should be opposed. We think ALL voluntary small scale literature distribution even if it is not for charities, religious or political purposes, should be exempted from the regulations or they should be dropped altogether. 
If you are among the groups that could be affected by the regulations as they stand PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL COUNCILLORS OR ALL THE COUNCILLORS (their email addresses are on the Council website www.brent.gov.uk/councillors .
The Kilburn and Brent Times alerted us to the dangers posed by these regulations and will continue to carry the story. We are grateful to them, but please spread the word to anyone you know who is involved in groups or activities that could be affected. Come along to the  Brent Fightback meeting on Monday April 30th.  If they persist in bringing these regulations in unchanged, we need to launch objections but also to take united action to challenge them.


Saturday, 14 April 2012

The next meeting of Brent Fightback, the
local anti-cuts campaign is this Tuesday, 17th April, 7.30 p.m. at the Trades
and Labour Hall, 375 High Road, NW10 2JR.

All are welcome

The agenda will include:

The struggle to defend the NHS – Brent Trades Council will be holding a
public meeting on the threat to services in Brent, Ealing and Harrow on
Wednesday 5th May at Harlesden Methodist Church, and there is ongoing activity
at the London-wide level to defend the NHS against privatisation (see
below).

The struggle over pensions is far from over, Unite union workers in health
will be striking on May 10th, and the National Union of Teachers voted at its
conference to follow regional strikes in may with a further national strike in
June. We will discuss what we can do to help.

We will also be discussing latest news over Brent schools becoming
academies and the situation with the libraries.

KEEP OUR NHS PUBLIC
London campaign
coordniating meeting
MONDAY 16
APRIL 7pm
Camden Town Hall
Judd St WC1 (Kings X / Euston
tubes)
To discuss weekend of action below as
well as other action points agreed at last meeting as attached.
Tell Richard
Branson ...
KEEP VIRGIN
PROFITEERING
OUT OF OUR
NHS!WEEKEND OF ACTION
APRIL 21 AND 22
Below are just a few reasons to oppose
the way the Health Act opens up our NHS to private profits from companies like
Virgin. With Richard Branson threatening to sue even the mildest critics, we
need to show we won't let him bully his way in to taking over our health
service.
Local groups are asked to pick a Virgin store
or Gym and organise a protest. Let us know when and where. We will have a
leaflet you can use on the day. Virgin media store locator: http://shop.virginmedia.com/store-locator.html Virgin Active club finder: http://www.virginactive.co.uk/en/club-finder
Plans in London so far include:
Saturday 21 April
Camden &
Islington 2pm Virgin store Oxford St, opposite the Plaza
(contact 07946 480261)
Waltham Forest
1pm Virgin store Selbourne Walk
Meet outside Walthamstow central
Library 1pm sharp (contact 07914 529959)
Sunday 22
April
Lewisham, Lambeth &
Southwark at London marathon sponsored by Virgin
(details soon on http://www.lewishamkonp.org/)
Is Virgin coming to a hospital
or clinic near you?
Before the new Health and Social Care Act has
even come into force, Ricahrd Branson's Virgin care have already taken over
these NHS services:
£500million contract for community health
services in South West and North West Surrey
Sexual Health Service for Milton Keynes
Dermatology service in the Isle of Wight
Shortlisted as potential providers of
integrated children’s services in Devon
(i)
Richard Branson
and David Cameron "You rub my back - I'll rub yours"
It is not surprising "Virgin Care" is doing
well out of the NHS or that Branson was one of the guests at the White House
when David Cameron went to dinner there last month.
Just before the 2010 election Richard Branson
was photographed in February supporting David Cameron's election bid. (ii)
A month later he bought loss-making Assura
private health company for knock down price of £4m, saying Virgin had been
waiting to find "the right entry point" into the health market. (iii)
That acquisition of a GP provider company put
Virgin in pole position to have influence in the government's new commissioning
arrangements.
A year later Virgin was the private health
company with most links on the shadow commissioning boards.(iv)
Any criticism and Branson
threatens to sue!
Richard Branson is threatening to sue the
Telegraph and journalist Max Pemberton for an article critical of Virgin's
takeover of community services published this week. It is reported Branson is
demanding a half page reply. A high court injunction was served on Sunday to try
to prevent the article being published. Branson is said to be unhappy too about
the tweeting and using it as part of the case. Max could face costs of up to
£90,000.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/9193015/Healthy-competition-in-the-NHS-is-a-sick-joke.html

Links
(i) http://www.hsj.co.uk/hsj-local/pcts/devon-pct/virgin-and-serco-on-shortlist-for-devon-childrens-services/5042813.article
(ii)
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1251534/Sir-Richard-Branson-backs-Tory-spending-cuts.html
(iii) http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f4f87ba6-26c5-11df-bd0c-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1rk2DTIgV
(iv) http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/newsarticle-content/-/article_display_list/12203991/half-on-some-gp-consortium-boards-have-links-to-virgin-group