You know that stupid policy that Liverpool City Council attempted to bring in? The one that forced buskers and other street performers to buy a permit, take out public liability insurance and sign up to a raft of terms and conditions?
Well, good news. The council has scrapped it. In the face of widespread peaceful protests – including a shedload of busking and street performing – and a petition and even High Court proceedings, the council has halted proceeding and announced that the policy will be scrapped pending review.
SevenStreets understands that the council had faced considerable pressure from its own back benches – largely younger councillors – to drop the policy.
A Liverpool council spokesman says the council has dropped the proceedings because the court timetable now in place would mean that the review would have to be completed in too short a time to avoid having to go back to court.
Dropping the policy means that the court proceedings can now end and the council can re-examine the policy in concert with other parties.
Under the proposals, council officers and police had the power to ‘move on’ any busker judged by them to be ‘musically unsatisfactory’ because – as we all know – policemen and council officers are well known for their musical sensibilities. Street performers who refused to stop would face trespass charges.
Speaking of the demonstration against the policy in July, busker Tom George commented on the public’s reaction to news of the policy:
“The feeling was almost unanimously supportive, many people being incredulous that such a ‘stupid’ policy had been enacted.”
But in the face of scrutiny by a High Court judge – which was not expected to look at the council’s policy favourably – the council has decided to drop the new street performance regulations.
The news is an incredible victory for Liverpool’s musical community, who united against the council’s plans and created the Keep Streets Live! campaign.
“It’s great news that Liverpool City Council have caved in following a united campaign by Liverpool street performers, but we shouldn’t be expecting any Nick Clegg-style apologies, autotuned or otherwise,” said George, reacting to today’s news.
“The council are not sorry for their assault on free expression, and this is only a temporary retreat, as they rethink their methods. It’s up to us all to make our voices heard, on this issue and others as the corporate blanding of our city centre continues.”
Liverpool solicitors Kirwans, who described the policy as ‘unlawful, unreasonable, irrational, oppressive and disproportionate’ said that the legal action was necessary to force the council to realise that the ‘ludicrous’ policy was ‘unreasonable and unlawful’.
“Thankfully the realisation that a High Court judge would see through the flawed policy has brought the council to their senses – otherwise they would have dragged it through a protracted review making tweaks and pulls to something that needed scrapping.”
Kirwan says that “proper, meaningful consultation” is now required with relevant stakeholders to create a policy fit for purpose.
Mayor Joe Anderson’s response is typically pugnacious. Media coverage of the issue constituted ‘misleading and overblown commentary’. The regulations would have provided ‘opportunities to more performers’; the legal challenge is dismissed as ‘unnecessary’; and Joe hopes ‘we can instead get on with working together to deliver a solution which will satisfy everyone’.
We might point out that these conversations may have been better timed had they happened prior to the policy being introduced to the widespread dismay of everyone affected by it, but ‘legislate first; talk later’ would seem to be de rigeur these days.
This isn’t the first time the council has attracted the ire of the city’s musical and cultural communities.
A controversial policy imposed by the council earlier this year – the Cumulative Impacts scheme – has made it easier for the closer to refuse licenses for city centre venues; one result of which was that Static Gallery ceased its live music programme following a Noise Abatement Order resulting from the complaints of local residents.
We hope the council views the defeat as an opportunity to open up dialogues with the city’s musical communities and recognises the role that grassroots and independent groups contribute to Liverpool’s cultural success.