British Legion collectors will be prevented from collecting in two of Birmingham’s main shopping streets, in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday.
Birmingham – like many other towns and cities – has restrictions on the numbers of charities that can be collecting in a particular street at a particular time. And in this case Shelter and Oxfam have already ‘booked’ the street for key days, which means the British Legion can’t go there too.
These rules are connected with controls on leafleting and other forms of public petitioning or appeal. Councils are starting to issue licenses – to charge fees, set certain terms, or otherwise control the use of public space.
It is no doubt sensible that people must ask the council before they erect structures, such as marquees – but for itinerant collectors, leafleteers, or simple campaign stalls, these controls are entirely unnecessary and represent a major infringement of public freedoms.
It effectively means that the council ‘rents’ out the shopping street, by the hour and the yard – as if the street were its private property. There has been a major shift over the past 10 years, and the end result of this is that public space is ceasing to be public.
A collectors’ rebellion could be in order…