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Different strokes for different folks

Danny McFadden wonders why the penalties for fly-posting seem to vary with who the culprits are

Published on March 7th 2008.


Different strokes for different folks

Last year Lynda Moyo contributed a piece to Manchester Confidential regarding the council’s stance on fly-posting. Under the title ‘Street Spam Or Revenue Scam’, she questioned developments to rid the city of unlawful advertising with suggestions that it was a ‘money-spinner’ [prosecutions had then resulted in fines amounting to £170,000]. It also put forth an argument that the clampdown could be detrimental to Manchester’s eclectic music scene.

Les Croasdaile of Stylus told us that he’s sure that his club night was made ‘an example’. He was also instructed to pay £400 cleaning costs. Puzzling when you consider that those four notices were simply tied to street furniture.

Since then legal action has continued and, as a council spokesperson tells us, ‘the amount of fly-posting has certainly reduced’. In fact, we’re informed that the scheme has been ‘very successful’.

But are there some discrepancies regarding who faces those criminal charges and, in fact, the size of those penalties?

Late 2006, for example, and both Redrow Homes and Glynwebb Ltd were summoned to Manchester Magistrates Court respectively facing charges relating to four and eight counts of fly-posting. Redrow was fined £200 and ordered to pay £350 costs while Glynwebb was fined £400 plus those £350 costs. Fair enough. But compare that to the club promoters behind the Stylus night who were presented with a £2,200 bill for four laminated posters. Or, for that matter, James Smith – promoter of the now defunct Tramp club – who, just six weeks ago, was fined £10,000 plus £518.96 costs for five counts of fly-posting.

The council would not discuss individual cases. Its spokesperson also told us that the council has no input regarding fine levels and that those imposed are decided by the Magistrates Court.

Les Croasdaile of Stylus told us that he’s sure that his club night was made ‘an example’ as part of the initiative. He was also instructed to pay £400 cleaning costs. A puzzling amount when you consider that those four, very temporary notices were simply tied to street furniture. In Tramp’s case, photocopies were attached with Blu-Tak. Although, yes, these examples might not be what you immediately think of when talk turns to a fly-posting problem that the city feels the need to tackle.

So what of the A1 and A0-sized posters pasted at various sites around the city? Those that are traditionally changed on a weekly basis by some invisible army? The ones that showcase the products and services of everything from major international corporations to local underground projects?

Surely those more prolific culprits are also targeted for investigation by the Environmental Crimes Unit. You would think so, wouldn’t you? Only having not seen similarly high-profile cases of successful prosecutions pertaining to that more recognised brand of fly-posting, we had to ask the council for some kind of explanation. Is there some kind of loophole? Or are there, in fact, companies that are actually authorised to fly-post? Maybe particular areas where a blind eye may be turned?

We still don’t know. Our council spokesperson told us that the department would not be drawn any further regarding this particular issue: rebuffing a suggestion that there was anything ‘underhanded here’. Good, we hope so.

So what do we know? Well, ‘fly-posting is illegal’. The council has even put up signs that say so.

Now, if only those finer points could be advertised more prominently…

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23 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

neil sheehanMarch 7th 2008.

i would very much like to see a follow-up article about this soon. can we get an address at the town hall for who to speak to about this? it's the duty of everyone who cares about this city and the nightlife of it to not just let this go. corruption like this should not be allowed in 2008. i forgot to mention how astonishing it is that estate agents get the most meagre fine while the promoter behind one of the city's most exciting clubnights in years gets the full wack. manchester council: bending over backwards to support the vermin who have bled this city dry, while at the same time spitting on the ones who have brought the reputation of the city's nightlife out of the gutter with no tax perks or secret backhanders.

PeteMarch 7th 2008.

To Scott: you need to look at your own accounting skills because 5 posters at over £10,000 is not in line with a housing developer that gets charged a total of £550 for four posters. Even with the turnover that you've suggested (not mentioning how nights like Tramp heavily featured expensive guests) a developer of newbuild homes like Redrow will have loads more spare cash available to them. I also doubt that fly posting teams are giving a percentage of their earnings to the owners of the properties they use ....... sounds a bit too Robin Hood if you ask me. I wouldn't count on what they do as being "perfectly legal and above board" either. Bottom line is that there's a department at the council which is basically a joke. It looks like it isn't able to do anything about any of the big guys so will justify the fact that it exists by chasing after a few small operators. It's pretty pathetic.

JinkiesMarch 7th 2008.

Property companies bring a lot more money into Manchester than club nights, of course the council's going to be nicer to Redrow Homes and Glynwebb than they would stylus. It's rank hypocracy but hey, it's the manchester city council - what did you expect?

Al MackMarch 7th 2008.

To set the record straight Les Croasdaile was not fined, nor did he take the stand for flypostering (he was merely a visitor to the court). It was myself and Scott Carey (co-promoters) who were in the dock and I paid for half of the fine. The workers from the council cheered when they won the award, so you could say that they were happy about making an example of us, but at the time other clubs and promoters were getting fined similarly ridiculous amounts.

AnonymousMarch 7th 2008.

It is generally the business being advertised which is liable for the flyposting offence and fine. There are different rules for advertising on street furniture (e.g. bus shelters) and private land. It makes sense that the business being promoted gets hit with the fine.

DickensMarch 7th 2008.

Very foxy Spawny. So are you saying that there is an illegal cartel operating here: a cosy relationship between some crooks and the Council? shouldn't we be calling the Police, or at least the serious fraud squad?

AnonymousMarch 7th 2008.

I don't think anyone has left a comment here in support of a complete ban on fly posting. I think that most people would agree that a controlled, progressive approach is sensible. If there was such a thing in place, then it would be laudable. Well... unless those that put it in place insisted on pushing zero tolerance hypocrisy [eyesore! hazard!] instead of divulging details of what the real situation is. There's no need for anything that's "semi-legitimate" with this. Isn't honesty supposed to be the best policy?

PeterMarch 7th 2008.

Manchester did a trial a couple of years ago with the pillars but for some reason they were removed. The council most likely didn't like them much like the paper recycling bins on the streets which they want to remove!

Fly JohnMarch 7th 2008.

Nice one, Neil. Well done, ManCon, for high-lighting the issue.

billybobMarch 7th 2008.

It'd be really good to know how much revenue and profile that Sanky's, Warehouse Project, and Electric Chair have brought into the city compared to the cost of managing flyposting properly. Leeds has designated pillars for flyposting which if used here could be a source of an income. Assuming the Council stop turning a blind eye to the gang that runs Manchester's flyposting of course...

Hattori HanzoMarch 7th 2008.

Every flat surface, pillar, phone box and wall in Manchester would be plastered very quickly if left unregulated. The (semi-legitimised) poster teams at least keep their sites clean and current. Space and time is money and so as soon as a poster for an event becomes out of date, it is replaced. If posters were allowed to accumulate off these sites, they would not be cleaned off by the poster teams and would become tatty, wet and an eyesore. Furthermore, the poster teams' sites are only ever to be found on boarded up buildings and wooden hoardings that would look a whole load worse if left as they were. As far as I can see, the poster teams do us all a favour by at least taking some pride in these derelict sites, preventing grafitti build up etc. Yes they make some money, but they also give a valuable advertising route to some fantastic evnts and talent that would not reach an audience otherwise. Manchester City Council has taken a laudable view in my biased opinion in allowing these sites on wood but actively enforcing against posters placed on public street furniture, brick metal and glass. This is not an official council line and so you will not find it on their website or get anybody from ECU to admit to it, but PLEASE for the sake of our vibrant music scene and nightlife allow these sites to continue while keeping a level of control over blanket coverage of street furniture. A previous post mentioned a rape in a phone box (attributed to posters). This was actually in a BT phone box where the glass had been obscured by full length adverts from corporate sponsorship worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to BT. The lynch mob needn't get its torches out for this one unless they are on their way round to ClearChannel or JC Decaux offices. Local talent needs an outlet and make this city special. Dziekuje.

MarkusMarch 7th 2008.

Tweetypie, if that is the case, it just makes a mockery of their 'flyposting is illegal' line. How can this department police an area as being zero tolerance, when other property is being defaced? And who - in terms of people who stick up posters - is able to distinguish between what's accepted by the council? Is anyone supposed to know what illegal activity will be prosecuted and what illegal activity will not? And you shouldn't forget that a lot of this department's public support will come from the notion that it is tackling a very visible problem when you've just pointed out that its powers are negligible. Worse, it suggests that a few individuals are satisfying the quotas of a department that can't address a larger issue which tax-payers believe it is there to do. And then there is the lack of transparency on this issue which will inevitably lead to some of the claims made in the above comments. Personally, I think a review of that department and those people that have been prosecuted as a result of its investigations might be necessary. A clearer statement from the council regarding what it can and can't do with regards to flyposting (while revealing any arrangements with third parties), might also be a good idea. By the way, I'm actually someone who has no problem with fly-posting - as long as it is done responsibly.

AnonymousMarch 7th 2008.

Ive always been dubious about Manchester City Councils stance on this. Firstly let me point out that i am a very considerate citizen and hate fly posting however..For a short time a ran a small club night and so we used to do some posting of a4 home made posters. In order to not damage any propery we used to use low-tac double sided tape or blue tac. We only ever put the posters where we other posters were sited, so as to not create any further mess. We didnt like doing it but ultimately its the best way to get the message out about a club night.After 2 weeks, we got a very forcefull letter sent to the venue, the bar manager, and the bars head office telling us to stop or be fined. So we stopped.However on numerous occassion, any time of day, any day of the week, i have come across the big-boy fly posters nonchalantly at work. Vans parked on crossing, blocking pavements, and on busy streets, with numerous people around, even in sight of council CCTV cameras.These people are making a fortune from fly posting, and they know they dont have to hide what they are doing. They have no fear of being caught, and are very very obvious about their identities and actions.Im sure within a month i could get the reg plates and even pictures of evey fly posting team in Manchester, if i put my self to the task. So it would only take the Police / council a few weeks at worst to bring them all in.They simply dont want to as they have no ambition of stopping it, and would rather keep it illegal but semi-controlled by giving the fly posters areas of tolerance.So why do the small guys get punished so badly. Because its easier to scare the little guys into not doing it. Thus cutting down lots of small operation whilst tolarating the big-boys who they cant control.Whats a few hundred pound to a national company (eg redrow) nothing more than a token gesture. It certainly wont stop them doing it again!Stinks!

UninspiredMarch 7th 2008.

Fly posting is here to stay. What a great way of advertising the diverse and popular Manchester Music scene. Better to look at than boring old plywood on construction sites. Better than a local listings magazine.

tweetypieMarch 7th 2008.

The council can only prosecute those that put posters on their property i.e lamp posts, bus shelters, bins etc..Posters on private property can only be dealt by the owner of the property. It's not in their best interest to prosecute individuals and spend loadsa money and time doing this. The guys in the vans only post on private property that's why the council can't touch them.

scottMarch 7th 2008.

exactly, its obvious, the people posting the massive a0 posters, do so on private property, charge the promoters a price, throw a bit to the owners of the property to keep them happy, and its all perfectly legal and above board..... the people getting fined are the ones putting them in daft places like bus stops and phone boxes.... when running a club night, i was always warned against phone boxes in particular, as the council hate that, apparently somebody was raped in a phone box, and she would have been safe, it it wasnt for the fact the entire phone box was plastered with posters so nobody could see in.......... also, the fines are definetely in line with the money these people are making....say tramp for example... dont know exact numbers... but say it is 6 pounds in, 300 people through the door on a good night, there is 1800 pounds, chances are that they get the venue free after a while once they have proven they get people in and put a lot of money through the bar, so there is one week alone, and you think that it occured once a week, and was going for around 2 years.... plus i bet all that money was not declared to the taxman... so if anything, its cheaper than tax paying that 10k

PeteMarch 7th 2008.

A round of applause for MCR Confidential, the article and Neil Sheehan!

GooseMarch 7th 2008.

In response to Scott's comments about TRAMP! - you couldn't be further from the truth... TRAMP! ran on a relative shoestring. Entrance was £3/£4 (not £6 unless there was a guest) and averaged around 200 (not 300) per week, running 9 months a year. Factor in office rent, promotional costs, DJ/band fees etc and then give some to the tax man because TRAMP! (despite your speculation) was run through the books. Now split the remainder between the 3 people that ran it and I'm sure you can understand how a fine for £10k for 5 A3 photocopies stuck on with Blu-tak which leave no permanent mark and take virtually no time to remove is somewhat disproportionate!

AnonymousMarch 7th 2008.

Where IS the evidence of legal proceedings for those bigger businesses that can afford to employ those companies who will carry out that work on public property? And given that one of the council's reasons for clamping down on flyposting was because it can be a distraction for motorists, then those businesses that use huge, full colour posters should surely be the first port of call. Come to think of it, how about those "criminals" that could potentially cause all manner of carnage with their billboards? I reckon that the council needs to be a bit more clear about what's within its jurisdiction. Rather than whooping about a few successful prosecutions for minor counts which really had very little impact on this environment that it somehow believes it rescued.

neil sheehanMarch 7th 2008.

firstly i think it's great that manchester confidential is commissioning articles like this. ive been very critical of this site in the past but *proper* news like this is a definite way forward - more of this, please. (and shame on the MEN for not addressing this first).secondly, it actually is criminal that the council is allowing gangs to illegally flyposter around the city. everywhere you go you'll see massive A0 posters for major label cd releases and films - these are much more of a blight on the city than some temporary posters stuck up with blu-tak. do the council have some agreement with these people that they can do it? why is this information not in the public domain? if, as they claim, the council are attacking the business promoted on these illegally put-up posters then EMI et al must have fines reaching into the millions. somehow it's doubtful. the most disgusting thing about this is that manchester has built its fortune heavily on being known as a 'fun' city, a city with a strong vibrant exciting nightlife. duly enough, the council are happy to brag about this in the press and university prospectuses to bring in money and business to the city but they'll stamp heavily on the very promoters who have helped sustain this reputation (and build afresh) in a new era? absolutely outrageous and links in with the equally despicable trait of the powers-that-be's tendencies to bang on relentlessly about madchester and baggy - this can only lead to manchester becoming another liverpool, culturally held to ransom by the past and all those with a vested interest in keeping the old ways at the forefront and the new guys down. it would be great to see manchester confidential address this issue in future articles.i hope more manchester media outlets pick up on this and uncover the truth. are mcr council living in fear of the flypostering gangs? that's shameful enough but to ignore them and throttle the little guy, the grassroots guy who has a genuine love for this city and the people in it, that's just unbelievable.

JennMarch 7th 2008.

My god-this is absolutely ridiculous! Surely fines in proportion to the amount of posting/the business income would be more appropriate or even get the culprits to clean up themselves? As much as most fly posting is visually offensive, I feel for James who appears to have put his heart and soul into Tramp over the years!

Lucifer GrundyMarch 7th 2008.

Choice:Let bars and clubs (which pay absolutely vast rates to Manchester City Council) advertise to the people who live, work, study and love manchester. Or: prosecute them all for trying to liven up this city and provide a world of choice in exciting, vibrant and fresh ideas, bands, music, events etc. These venues would have to spend their entire annual turnover to get one ClearChannel billboard for a year. They cannot use mass media like the multi-nationals. Do you want a sterile, boring, identi-kit city or should we maybe provide affordable advertising space for the vast creative talent that lies cowering behind decks and on stages all over this city. Please ask how much the council gets in rates (easy to find out) for each and every billboard up in this town. Multiply by number of billboards - now that's criminal; surely some of this money could be put towards a few well managed sites at key points to showcase what our local venues do really well. Final Point; Clear Channel, JC Decaux etc - all american/foreign owned. All the profits go abroad. Can you see where I'm going with this? Don't get me started.

eddieMarch 7th 2008.

it is a joke the level of fines. there is no problem with flyposting or putting info boards up on traffic lights to just give the people of manchester info about things that some people may want to know. responsible promoters such as the stylus guys and other credible promoters often used to take them down anyway when the event was done.

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