By Daily Mail Reporter
Ever since the great printing revolution of the 15th century, leaflets have played a central role in Britain’s social, political and cultural life.
From lost cat appeals through to pesky pizza takeaway menus, we are sent dozens of flyers each year.
But killjoy councils across the country are using draconian legislation to force people to buy licences.
Oxford University students were apparently told they would have to buy a licence to leaflet each other.
The Manifesto Club claims thousands of small-scale organisations, like Women’s Institutes, comedy clubs, student societies and political campaigners – are being affected and their ‘civic freedoms’ infringed as they cannot afford the expensive licences.
For example, it costs £350 to hand out leaflets on a Saturday in Basildon – while Wolverhampton charges £262 per distributor.
Liz Day, head of Sawbridgeworth Women’s Institute in Hertfordshire had been threatened with an £80 fine for handing out flyers to an arts exhibition, the Guardian said.
The exhibition raises money for charity and is held every year.
Liz Day said: ‘Last year we were accosted by a very officious council employee and said that he only let us off the fine because he was in a “good mood.”‘
Director of the Manifesto Club Josie Appleton said: ‘It’s shocking that a taken-for-granted freedom has been overturned in five years.
‘Councils claim they are tackling litter but these rules mainly affect local groups who leaflet on a small scale.
‘Big businesses can afford the licence fees; it is the small theatre or music night that is squeezed out of public space.
We call for an urgent review of these council powers – and a more liberal approach that recognises leafleting as a key civic freedom.’
The club’s report, Leafleting: A Liberty Lost? said 45 local authorities in England insist people have to buy a licence to hand out leaflets.
Some have banned people from distributing the leaflets altogether.
It reveals many groups are protesting for their right to hand out publicity material, including a jazz club in Newcastle, comedy clubs in central London and the organisers of Leicester Comedy Festival.
Local rules meant the team organising the festival was asked to pay £5,200 per day to hand out leaflets, the report says.
The report states: ‘Leafleting is a key civic freedom and a fundamental part of civic life.
‘The leaflet is hand-to-hand communication between citizens: a call for others to come to this event, support this campaign, or visit this fair.
‘The UK’s leafleting culture is currently severely restricted and in danger of being extinguished.’
Councils are using powers under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 to curb leafleting claiming flyers litter the streets.