Friday, 24 October 2014

Election posters banned "forever"

North Ayrshire Council has voted to continue a ban on political posters being fixed to lampposts and other council-owned ‘street furniture’.

At a special meeting of the Council last Friday (October 24) a Motion by the district’s only Tory councillor, Tom Marshall, received the backing of most Labour councillors and secured an extension to an earlier ban covering this year’s European Election and Scottish Independence Referendum.

Traditionally the local council in North Ayrshire has allowed political parties to fix posters to lampposts during election periods.  However, in April this year opposition councillors united to defeat a proposal that would have allowed this practice to continue.  Councillors from the local authority’s SNP administration backed officials who recommended posters should be allowed.  The opposition victory meant no lamppost posters were allowed in North Ayrshire during the Euro Election and September’s referendum.

Speaking to the Largs and Millport Weekly News, Tom Marshall said the intention of the Tory/Labour motion was clear – “no more campaign posters forever”.

In addition to lamppost posters, the new Council decision bans all campaign materials “affixed or displayed on any property under the Council's control,” stating, “For the avoidance of doubt this includes any area adopted by the Council as Roads Authority and any street furniture thereon, whether installed by the Council or other bodies. Campaigning materials on telecommunications or power poles or apparatus or bus shelters situated on road verges or other areas owned or adopted by the Council...[and] parks and Council buildings etc., regardless of whether these are owned, leased or adopted by the Council.”

Council tenants will still be able to display political posters in the windows of their homes.

In 2008 when two Liberal Democrat councillors moved a motion to ban election posters in North Ayrshire, the then Labour-run Executive of the Council threw-out the idea, arguing, “The display of posters by political parties has been an accepted part of election campaigns in North Ayrshire for a considerable period of time,” and that the policy allowing them “introduces an element of control and ensures that local political parties, candidates and agents are aware of their responsibilities in terms of when and where they can erect posters and when posters must be removed.”
The then Labour administration’s position concluded, “Overall, the policy has worked satisfactorily over the years and goodwill between the Returning Officer and local political parties has ensured that the policy is adhered to. Any change in policy would have implications for political parties and independent candidates during election periods. Moreover, changing the existing policy...could prove counter-productive by leading to avoidable ‘policing’ problems for the Returning Officer during the busy period in the run up to the date of poll.”

Opponents of the ban on fixing election material to street furniture argue the move is motivated by the Labour and Tory parties no longer having sufficient numbers of activists to put posters on lampposts at election times.

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