Councillor Matt Noble
Councillor Matt Noble

Councillor Matt Noble set out Labour’s amendments to the Council’s proposed Busking policy at the Council meeting on 9th December:

“I’m very pleased to be moving the Labour Group’s amendment to the Council’s proposed Busking policy. The recommendation from the Licensing Committee was to pass the proposals up to Full Council. Our role in this chamber isn’t to pass things without scrutiny. The option is available to propose amendments and so that it what we have done. What we seek to do is strengthen the policy and make it more effective. The Conservatives portray themselves as loving to cut red tape, so they should welcome our amendments.

There are pragmatic justifications for each of our amendments to the scheme so I’ll set out what they are, but here’s the gist of it.

To run a robust licensing scheme without the resources to police it (and without expecting already overstretched Met Police officers to do it) you have to set the barriers to entry low, so that you get buy-in from those you want to licence. Then it’s much easier to carry out enforcement.

Our amendments improve the current policy by lowering the barriers to entry, so it’s easier to get a licence, which in turn would reduce unlicensed street performance, which would need to be combatted and is resource heavy. None of our amendments would alter the places where busking can take place or the proposed conditions, such as forbidding amplification.

  1. We propose that the fee is removed. WCC’s own modelling indicates an estimated total annual fee revenue of £2,400 against first year estimated costs of just over £117,500. What’s the point in charging? We hope that when the scheme is implemented in the Spring we’ll be welcoming people back. We know how, in the right places, street performers can draw in really big crowds, and will help businesses, so let’s pay it back.
  2. Removal of mandatory Public Liability Insurance in place of a recommendation that performers get it. Frankly, the Council proposal is just an attempt to pass on liability to performers where WCC is best placed administratively to procure that insurance. Birmingham, Leicester, Lambeth, Chelmsford, Camden – all have licensing schemes or codes, but none have PLI as a pre-requisite to performing. PLI was mentioned a few times in the consultation feedback documents – mainly by residents who think the Council should be covering it.
  3. There’s no reason at all for WCC to need to police people’s right to work for a busking licence. They aren’t employing street performers so it’s unnecessary and bizarre. I can’t find an example of another street performance licensing scheme which seeks to do this. I mean, the policy at present describes itself as being a ‘light touch licensing scheme’, but I’m struggling to envisage how we could be asking any more of applicants without fingerprints and DNA.
  4. Including the ability to submit applications at an actual address rather than online only. This should be an option at least. We have front-facing Council staff, so why not enable people who don’t have internet access to see a person.
  5. Unspent convictions. We’ve changed this so they’re related to ASB alone, as frankly, if you leave prison and can’t even get a busking licence, what does that say about WCC, and what does it say about the possibility for rehabilitation. Again, as far as I’ve found this is a Westminster-only condition under a ‘light touch’ scheme.

There it is, it’s a street performance licence, not an application to run the National Lottery, or even to get a PPE contract from the government, but apparently, they’re much easier to get. You can get them on Whatsapp.

I hope the majority party gives our amendment serious consideration.”

Busking and Street Entertainment Policy pdf icon PDF 897 KB

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