Potentially vulnerable sex industry workers in Rotherham could be allowed to make anonymous contributions to consultations that may lead to legal businesses needing licences to operate in future.
Rotherham Council is making moves towards introducing a licensing system for businesses in the legal sex trade, including sex shops, adult cinemas and places of entertainment like lap dancing clubs.
At present there are no restrictions on how they operate beyond conventional local authority rules and the council is looking at introducing controls on two levels.
That could include restrictions on where businesses are allowed to operate, possibly with new rules around sensitive locations such as schools, places of worship and family entertainment centres and also regulations to protect those who work in the trade.
Many are self employed but it is an industry where many of the conventions which normally apply to the self employed are ignored, with councillors told that some establishments charge dancers to perform there and also impose workplace fines which can mount up to the extent where the worker is in debt to the establishment where they work.
Council procedures for adopting such rules are complex and need public consultation first, with councillors suggesting that workers should be given the option of presenting their views anonymously to protect their welfare.
The proposals were put to councillors sitting on Rotherham Council’s scrutiny board and they have accepted the suggestion which, if the full council and ruling Cabinet agree, will see public consultations take place with the possibility of a new licencing scheme by the Spring of next year.
Coun Emma Hoddinott accepted the suggestion of anonymous contributions was “something we need to take away”.
Coun Eve Rose Keenan spoke out on one establishment, stating: “I find it quite abhorrent that it is so near churches and mosques and places of worship.
“It is a second away from the town hall. We have school children coming here to learn about democracy and we have a blooming lap dancing club behind us.
“I know it (the licencing scheme) cannot go as far as I would like but I will provide plenty of people to be part of the consultation,” she said.