Sunday, September 15, 2013

May the Farce Be With You, Tower Hamlets Strike Back

Well I have to say thank you to Brute to pointing me at the report from the Tower Hamlets council on SEVs (here). Now the thing that really matters to me that was brought to my attention is a very small part of the actual report and in any other case it might have just got noted in the next round up. BUT the council has really made me annoyed with this.

The sections that really hit home are 6.6 to 6.9 where the council shows it's two faced nature and its bitterness towards people who coordinate to defend their businesses. The fact is the council made a massive effort to ensure they got the result they want and it backfired.

So the council wanted to ensure it got the result it wanted that they could adopt the powers to regulate SEVs. To try to ensure the council got the power they used the council paper, local and Bengali media and the council's website. They also  contacted Faith Groups, Community Safety, Women's Organisations (not named which though), Networks and Forums, Advocacy Services and even Housing associations. This looks like a damned concentrated effort to make sure the council can say they are operating with the backing of the public remembering the first consultation was more or less split down the middle.

However the council got a very nasty surprise, A total of 4,973 responses (526 online and 4,447 paper returns) were received, with 1,424 forms being returned from the Pleasure Lounge. The responses were as follows:  108 (2.2%) ‘Yes’ responses, in favour of adopting 4,865 (97.8) ‘No’ responses, not in favour of adopting.

Now the council had tried to get a co-ordinated response to back themselves but they go on to decry the clubs who ask customers to fill in forms when the are at the club. Considering the number of clubs that operate I am only surprised that the response was not bigger. Trying to be clever and thinking that the clubs are not following what is going on only to find that the clubs not only are following and responding but also have a pretty active customer base that is more than happy to fill in the forms. When you consider that with the agencies the Tower Hamlets area has around 1,000 dancers working then you only need each dancer to find 5 customers who would fill in forms and this is the result you would get.

So the council got a surprise and is now trying to say that what the clubs did was wrong when all they did was do the same as the council and engage with their stakeholders. Personally this is amusing as it has made the claims in the report seem pedantic and childish and very much a case of wahhhhhhh I didn't get my own way. Next we will probably see the passing of the nil policy with exceptions like Hackney but as Brute pointed out to me just done over a much longer period and with a much greater expense.

A Very Amused TonyN (


  1. There are some classic quotes in this report; to cite but a few:-

    "The ['nil' policy with exceptions for existing venues], as recommended, provides a pragmatic solution to the achievement of Executive aspirations for a strong policy line against the exploitation of women."

    Translation: "As a result of public opposition and the potential for legal challenges, we've had to backpeddle on our initial proposal for a blanket ban on striptease venes, so we're hoping that this standard policy fudge is going to allow us to save face. But we're still going to trot out the 'ex-ploi-tat-ion of wo-myn' meme on cue!"

    "It would be possible not to have a policy at all, in which
    case each license application would be considered on a case by case basis resulting in a higher risk of inconsistency in approach which could in turn increase the potential for legal challenge or reputational damage where discrepancies occur."

    Translation: "As well as being a face-saving exercise, adopting a watered-down version of a 'nil' policy also has arse-covering potential."

    "The [March-April 2013] consultation posed the question ‘Do you think the council should adopt new powers to regulate sexual entertainment venues via an enhanced licensing regime?’"

    Translation: "There was no way that we were going to risk mentioning a 'nil' policy this time 'round, was there?"

    "There is strong evidence that the sex industry has co ordinated a response from its clientele to such an extent that it has undermined the consultation as being one that can provide an accurate picture of wider community opinion."

    Translation: "The striptease venues managed to get their act together this time, like the anti-striptease activists and mosques did last time - oops!"

    "Whilst the result may be unrepresentative of the community as a whole and heavily skewed by the intervention of the sex entertainment industry the Council should never the less take the response in to consideration when reaching a decision."

    Translation: "Much as we're loathe to admit it, people involved with the striptease industry are part of the wider community of Tower Hamlets, and to be seen to ignore their views altogether after going to the trouble and expense of organising a second consultation would probably backfire on us badly."

    "Whilst the Council is required to undertake consultation on the adoption of the legislation, a strong ‘No’ response does not prevent adoption if there remain good reasons for regulation of sex establishments under the scheme established by Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982."

    Translation: "However, we're going to pay as little attention to their views as the law allows us to."

    Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...

    1. You have to think that this has been one desperate attempt after another for the council to placate its religious supporters. The clubs have said enough we are not going to roll over and play dead and it has seemed to shock the council who has believed they are immune to scrutiny. Well the council is not going to run wild over the SEVs and we look forward to see how stupid the council, their allies and Object will make themselves, as no doubt if a nil policy with exception is put in place they will claim a win rather than the council denying public opinion.

  2. I see the standard of debate from the antis is high in Bristol

    1. That's the level of emotional maturity we've come to expect from them! ;-)

    2. I wonder if people will ever grow up. With such an apathetic response from the locals you start to realise these moral crusaders are sitting with their Lattes bemoaning the world but when it comes to doing something we are seeing the customers and dancers working together to keep clubs open.

  3. Moving onto a report entitled Consultation on Sex Establishments Policy in Tower Hamlets, prepared on behalf of the Council by SMSR Ltd:

    The first thing that the more observant amongst you will notice is the date of the report - September 2012 - which begs the question of why it's only been brought to the attention of the public so recently by the Council. However, what I found most interesting was the demographic spread of the replies...

    From page 6 of the report:

    "In terms of residents, then overall the survey has produced an inconclusive split vote especially when one takes the sampling error [alluded to earlier in the report] into the account. Running sub analyses highlights the sub groups who are either in support of or against the proposed policy.

    • Those in favour are more likely to be: Male, Asian/Asian British and these witha Muslim belief/religion
    • That not in favour tended to be: Female, Black/Black British / and White respondents."

    With a more detailed demographic breakdown from pages 24-25:

    "Variances in in overall result

    a) Ethnicity/Age/gender

    In terms of being in favour of the proposal, males (56%) were more supportive of the nil sex establishments’ proposal; as were those with an Asian or Asian British background (74%). Those aged 12-19 (89%), 20-25 (56%), 26-34 (53%) and 65+ (59%) all indicated higher levels of agreement than the 52% average [subject to a +/-2% margin of error].

    b) Religion

    Muslim respondents were hugely in favour of a nil policy (82%). Christian respondents (81%) and those with no religion (75%) were less supportive of this proposal.

    c) Sexuality

    Heterosexual respondents had a fairly split opinion with 47% for and 53% against. Just over a third (37%) of bisexual respondents were in favour as where just 12% of gay or lesbian respondents.

    d) Against the proposed policy

    More than half of the following demographics were against the proposal:

    •Females (53%),
    •Black / Black British (72%),
    •Mixed/dual heritage (90%),
    •White (76%),
    •Those aged 35-43 (51%), 44-59 (63%) and 60-64 (64%)."

    In other words, the results would appear to indicate that religious views played a major role in how people voted in the initial online consultation, and tend to give lie to the notion that the proposed 'nil' was addressing the concerns of women or was popular with regard to promoting equal opportunities in the borough.

    1. That last bit against the proposed policy seems to say over have of the women were against the nil policy. So religion which by definition is a moralistic approach to life is probably the key to those for. And only those under 35 or over 65 are for and that did surprise me but then that would more likely be the religious activists amongst the youngsters.

      And really nice to see the LGBT community recognising that they will be targeted by zealots.

    2. It's very telling that young people aged under 18 were considered qualified to take part in the consultation, and that the results in the 12-19 age group were strongly in favour of a 'nil' policy; enlightened engagement of the youth in local politics by the council, or cynical exploitation of young people who could be influenced easily by their elders? It's also worth noting that anyone aged under 18 wouldn't be affected directly by a 'nil' policy in the borough, due to present licensing laws.

    3. And yes, it's gratifying to see the LGBT community taking such an active role in opposing the 'nil' policy, particularly via the Council's own forum, Rainbow Hamlets, and at the public meeting held in 2012. Then again, they've been at the receiving end of some vicious hate campaigns over the last few years: I'm referring here specifically to the 'Gay Free Zone' [sic] stickering campaign in Whitechapel and Spitalfields, homophobic insults shouted from the public gallery in the Council chamber during meetings and most recently, the activities of the self-styled Muslim Patrol (it must be noted the authorities of the East London Mosque disowned it in no uncertain terms), which targeted gay men for verbal abuse and physical harassment.

  4. So consultation 1 split, consultation 2 with all the contacting of groups by the council hit the brick wall that is customers. dancers and club staff. And now the council has probably worked out that the clubs have a lot more people interested in keeping them open, than there are those that actively try to close them.

    There is also the fact that the council contact women's groups on the second consultation and we would think that Object were "mobilised" but the fact is the active campaigners are falling off as they realised the arguments that they have trotted out over the years carry no weight. Lilith is gone and Bindel's report is holier than the vatican. Even with the Lose the Lads Mag and No More Page 3 there were small groups who turned up to events and the rad fems are realising that dancers are true feminists in that they earn their money, are educated and work by choice.

    So will this be the end of the Tower Hamlet battle? The Nil with exceptions seems a victory for both sides but there are drawbacks on both sides as well. The clubs which have to be extra careful to avoid issues and the Mayor will have a lot of explaining to do to his religious backers who will feel they have lost. I have a sneaking suspicision that give it a year and this will rear its ugly head again.

    1. "[T]he rad fems are realising that dancers are true feminists in that they earn their money, are educated and work by choice."

      I suspect that it's more a case of the general public realising that not only do small pressure groups like Object and UK Feminista not represent the majority of women, but that they don't even speak for the majority of feminists, and that they have no actual evidence to back up their inflammatory claims.

    2. "The clubs which have to be extra careful to avoid issues and the Mayor will have a lot of explaining to do to his religious backers who will feel they have lost. I have a sneaking suspicision that give it a year and this will rear its ugly head again."

      Do you think we'll see more local campaigns like the one which bullied the owners of the Beehive into dropping regular striptease?

    3. This quote from an article of yesterday's date in the Docklands & East London Advertiser, entitled 'Cabinet backs clampdown on new sex clubs in Tower Hamlets', reflects concerns regarding the position of existing striptease venues under the new licensing regime:

      "[L]awyers representing several East End strip clubs said the changes would mean establishments – some of which have been operating for almost 40 years – will have to apply for a new type of licence under the new regime.

      Gareth Hughes, of Jeffrey Green Russell solicitors, said: 'When you get to the application for the licence they could very well find some spurious reason to refuse it, so I have concerns that the assurances given may not be enough.

      'Any lap dance venue would always be near a school, or a mosque or something like that. There’s certainly a moral and religious objection to them, but no crime and disorder; otherwise police would have been involved in it, and they are not,' he added."


    4. This is where I see the issues, the renewals. Either they will go with the ooops you are too near a Mosque/Church approach and leverage the religious leaders to make moral judgements. Or the conditions that are applied will be impossible to meet so the clubs are forced to shut.

      The fact that on second attempt the council was told by the public to stop it and they are just railroading the policy they want through. So long as the Mayor has religious backers he needs to placate the clubs are at extreme risk.

      The renewals are the place the council will strike. Divide and conquer by targeting one club and suggesting to the others the reduction in competition will be good for them. I hate this sort of wait as it will be a while.

    5. Spurious licensing objections from religious minorities in Tower Hamlets aren't exactly unusual, as this post on the Trial By Jeory illustrates:

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