January 17, 2020 2.30 pm This story is over 51 months old

Local Democracy Weekly: Council bans – the popular, the silly and the downright myths

Councils are often called “fun police” when they ban things

Outrage over councils’ “heavy-handedness” and “fun police” attitudes often dominate local and national headlines. Lincolnshire councils are no stranger to the trend, but some measures come from a place of genuine concern.

This week, South Kesteven council revealed that it intends to ban the release of sky lanterns and balloons on its land.

But, as opposed to the “fun police” jibes often levelled at councils, this measure comes from a good place.

The authority argues that the lanterns and balloons can pose a choking or entanglement hazard to natural wildlife and livestock.

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The policy has also proven popular with the public and the Marine Conservation Society told Local Democracy Weekly they were “delighted” to see more councils introducing the ban.

It’s a measure which is aimed at a specific issue, much the same way a ban on cars in Birmingham City centre is directed at environmental concerns.

But while some bans work and are popular with the public, others do not go down so well or are just unenforceable.

Example of a sky lantern release. South Kesteven District Council wants to ban the release of lanterns and balloons on its land.

South Lanarkshire struggled to pass a ban on silly string at Lanimer Day, a celebration that takes place every June in the Scottish town of Lanark.

The local paper reported that the matter was “getting silly now” as the policy fell foul of the council’s licensing laws.

Other so-called bans are the things of myth and legend and often wrongly repeated to this day.

Perhaps the most infamous is that of Winterval, a 41-day and night celebration in Birmingham in 1997, where the local council marketing team was tasked with including a number of holidays and events in the city centre over the winter period.

The event would include a Christmas lights switch on, Frankfurt Christmas Market, Diwali, as well as other activities such as arts and theatre.

However, the name “Winterval” came to bite the events manager as local and national media perpetuated a narrative that the council was “rebranding” Christmas.

This then snowballed and the story became that other “councils” were doing the same and it was all the fault of “political correctness” and that Christmas was being banned.

Nothing could be further from the truth and Mike Chubb, the then head of events at Birmingham City Council, repeatedly had to explain what the real intention was.

Ultimately, councils have a duty to protect the local area, environment and the people who live in its district.

They have the power to clamp down on certain issues, whether they be pollution or animal welfare.

However, they are also accountable to the public and whether or not a ban is welcomed or not is down to the people

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