Leather footballs on playground outlawed by 'absurd' council order

Using leather footballs on a school playground is made illegal by ‘absurd’ council order

  • Sefton Council told school it had received ‘a large number of noise complaints’

A council has been slammed for outlawing leather footballs in an ‘absurd’ move under powers that allow local authorities to issue diktats banning messy gardens, noisy TVs and even ‘messy’ chalk markings.

Sefton Council in Merseyside used its powers to impose a community protection notice (CPN) on a local school following ‘a large number of complaints raised by residents’.

The notice banned the use of ‘heavy leather footballs’ and demanded that pupils only use ‘light flyway or foam footballs’ instead.

The order is among a number of bizarre CPNs imposed by councils across England in recent years that have been unearthed by campaign group the Manifesto Club, which challenges what it calls ‘the hyper-regulation of public spaces’.

It says the ‘cowboy powers’ should be scrapped, arguing that the majority of CPNs are ‘unnecessary’ or could be pursued in other ways.

One council slammed a school with a community protection notice banning the use of leather footballs after receiving ‘noise complaints’ from locals

Josie Appleton of the Manifesto Club, which has called for the ‘absurd’ CPNs to be scrapped

The campaigners found that almost 26,000 community protection warnings (CPWs) and CPNs were issued across England last year, up from 14,000 in 2014/15, reports the Telegraph.

CPWs are first issued by councils to alleged perpetrators of anti-social behaviour – and this can be upgraded to a CPN if the behaviour continues unabated.

The community powers can be used by the police, local authorities and housing associations that are licensed to do so by councils.

READ MORE: ‘Cowboy’ laws that have criminalised wearing a bikini in a private garden and flying a model aeroplane: Campaigners call for community protection notices to be scrapped as report warns of danger of ‘unchecked powers’ 

They were brought in as part of a raft of measures to replace anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) in 2014 – but unlike ASBOs, CPNs do not have to be sanctioned by a court.

More than 200 councils issued the orders last year, with 35 sending out notices for messy or overgrown gardens.

Other notices included 10 CPNs for feeding birds, 23 for begging, 16 for neighbour disputes and 14 for barking dogs.

Mendip Council imposed a notice in 2020/21 to someone for ‘chalk markings’ said to have caused ‘alarm and distress’.

In all, almost 48,000 CPNs have been issued since 2014. Breaching a CPN is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £2,500.

The most prolific councils were Durham, which issued 819 orders, and Nottingham, which issued 543.

On the football ban, Sefton Council says it only imposed the ban on leather balls for a few months, after which the ‘successful’ order was lifted. 

Some CPNs were also used to target serious issues such as domestic abuse and drugs and violence. 

But the Manifesto Club claims using community powers in this way risks ‘trivialis(ing) criminal activity’ and prevents police from properly investigating potential crimes.

It has called for CPNs to be scrapped, branding the notices ‘unnecessary’. 

Josie Appleton, director of the Manifesto Club, said: ‘Officials appear to have created a blank cheque power and then washed their hands of it.

‘It’s only because of Manifesto Club FOIs (Freedom of Information requests) that we know that there have been nearly 50,000 CPNs issued since 2014. 

‘The Home Office doesn’t keep basic data or monitor the use of this power – there have been no government studies on whether CPNs are appropriately issued, or are effective.

‘The Home Office needs to fill this gap, and fast, before more innocent people are slapped with absurd legal orders’.

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