Political leafleteers asked for leafleting licences in London

This email came from a political leafleteer, who is increasingly being stopped and asked for a licence. Yet the boroughs concerned have not, so far as we know, enacted a leafleting licence system. The context is growing powers for London councils and PSCOs, to be granted by the London Local Authorities Act. A worrying case, which we will investigate…

‘I’ve leafleted for several years (from a stall) without ever contacting the authorities – under the auspices of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (CNEA) 2005 (*) – in Islington and Camden (and Westminster). I’ve not had any bother from the police, and not much from the Police Community Support Officers.

‘Over the last few months however, (some) PCSOs have been asking if we have a license from the council. When we say that political groups are exempt under the CNEA, they ‘warn’ us about council wardens who may happen by.

‘This suggests (in the light of your report) that new local leafleting regulation may have been brought in (Camden) with certain council workers having the authority to issue notices for breaking it. (But how are leafleteers expected to know about new regulation? And do the council warders/enforcers (if any) wear some sort of uniform?)

‘Or, perhaps the PCSOs are anticipating the current London Local Authorities Bill which could empower council wardens in the London boroughs to be able to demand name and address as well as to levy fixed penalty notices where an offence such as street littering or (if there’s new LA regulation) unlicensed or exempted but undocumented, leafleting, is suspected.’

‘Either way, it’s disconcerting and making me think twice about continuing to leaflet.’

The leafleteer adds: ‘One PSCO told me I could leaflet but I couldn’t have a table on her patch!’ – an indication of somewhat arbitrary demands made by some some CSOs, who appear to be making up the law as they go along…

(*) Schedule 3A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (as introduced by section 23(2) of the CNEA 2005)