Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Muddy waters over Wrecsam free speech

Tonight's Corporate Governance scrutiny committee discussed the revised proposals over allowing political parties, groups and campaigns to use Queens Square for their activities.
The report gave the impression that there had been a dramatic u-turn by officers on the matter, so that there was now no legal right to ban political activity and free speech in the square. In practice, we were told, any political group can set up a stall in Queen Square in the same way as they can in the high street or any other part of the public highway.
However, attempts to clarify this soon ran into trouble as officers started to muddy the waters. Firstly, this freedom would not apply during an election period.
In addition, there was some confusion over the size of the stall.
Finally there was continued confusion about whether the council's remit extended over all the square, given that part of it was public highway, and whether market traders were being unfairly discriminated against. Cllr David Kelly made some valid points about the size of the pitch groups or traders were hiring - the proposed charges do not make it clear whether the hirer is getting the entire square for the charge or just a section of it. There is no sense of proportionality and officers conceded it was down to what they could charge various organisations - the thinking being that Sky was in a better position to pay a higher fee than most organisations.
No problem with that, and we had some success in dropping the charge on Wrecsam-based charities such as Nightingale House, who will now not pay £30 for the privilege of hiring the square or part of it.


the Howlin Wolf said...

It was a complete mess with poor legal advice. Officers were taken apart by members.

Plaid Whitegate said...

What the poor Leader reporter will make of it in the morning I don't know... he looked as confused as most of the members.
Still it was a first - being called "deliberately obtuse" by an officer.