IN THE same week that Councillor Debbie Coleman actually consulted residents and axed a proposed 20 miles per hour speed limit from roads in her ward, the Blackpool Politburo is showing its true colours and plastering signs around all the parks labelling them a ‘designated smokefree site’ to ‘protect the cheeldren’. With no consultation.
Ministry of Truth spokesman Councillor Ivan the Terrible said; “The idea is to protect the children who are on the playgrounds.”
Now ladies and gents, don’t be suckered into thinking that this is some kind of law, because this is what the Blackpool branch of Zanulabour want you to think. It’s not a law. What it is is an attempt by petty council dictators to police our thoughts and crack down on freedom by using the protection of children as their moral basis (as is so often the case).
“Hmm, little Johnny is on the swings, I fancy a ciggie…
…but wait, there’s a sign here from Blackpool Council that says I shouldn’t.
I wonder if I will get fined?
I’d better wait ’til I get home.”
The hypocrisy of this is not lost; after all, the Labour council is like an exclusive chain-smoking club that meets every half an hour outside the town hall, with the standard uniform of an all-weather trenchcoat, fake Ray-Bans and a pack of 20 Regal.
I wonder whether the Ministry of Truth will use CCTV to monitor smoking and send out official-looking letters of ‘guidance’ to perpetrators on the basis that they have done something that does not conform to the council’s nanny state ideals.
Some people have claimed, quite outrageously, that this actually is enforceable in the same way that banning dogs from beaches is enforceable. These two scenarios are not the same.
Councils can, under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, create a Dog Exclusion Order to exclude dogs from a particular area. This is enforceable by Civil Enforcement Officers: if they catch a dog owner breaching the Order they can serve them with a Penalty Charge Notice which they must either pay or incur a County Court Judgement that will, if unpaid after a month, affect their credit rating.
The same applies to dog fouling, littering and even illegal parking. These are all enforceable by legislation and penalties can be issued by officers nominated by the local authority to enforce it.
Looking at this smoking ban in Blackpool parks, without any supporting legislation Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) have no powers to do anything; they cannot serve Penalty Charge Notices and cannot even demand the name and address of a smoker caught in the act. The only potential route, as I see it, is for the council to sue a smoker for breach of contract.
The signs that have been erected represent a contract offer from the council. By entering the playground, the smoker accepts the contract. If they smoke whilst in the playground they breach the contract.
In order to catch anyone breaching the contract the council would have to deploy personnel at the parks, however since these personnel have no powers under any legislation to even request the identity of the smoker, there would be no point: if the council do not know who to sue, they can’t.
Further to this, the council would probably need to indicate via signage the level of damages they would seek if the contract was breached, as private car parks do for people who overstay their ticket. There are no signs like this.
Therefore the council has no punitive means to enforce the pretend smoking ban.
Lets just say the council did find out the name and address of someone smoking and actually got to court. They would have to show what they had lost through the breach of contract in order to be awarded damages. The council does not own the air and it is impossible to devalue something that is already free, so this would be nothing.
It would also cost the council money to pursue anyone through the courts in this way, and this would be very hard to justify given their budget cuts. It would also make national news and create terrible publicity for Blackpool (as if this ‘ban’ was not bad enough).
Furthermore a judge might say their smoking ban is illegal and make them take all the signs down. This would be hugely embarrassing for Labour.
So again it’s unenforceable.