Campaigners fear a proposed crackdown on street drinking, begging and legal highs will criminalise Liverpool’s homeless people.
Liverpool council is consulting on plans to introduce a Public Spaces Protection Order in a bid to address problems around anti-social behaviour across the city centre.
But the plans have been slammed by critics who claim the order would increase the issues faced by some of the city’s most vulnerable people.
Under the proposals those found street drinking, begging, touting for licensed premises, taking legal highs and placing or erecting unauthorised structures in public places – including temporary shelters – could be fined up to £1,000.
While begging is already a criminal activity, the council argues a Public Space Protection Order will be able to provide a more appropriate method of dealing with this issue.
Explaining the reasons behind the move, the consultation document said: “These are issues that have been identified by the council and the partners that we work with to address problems around anti-social behaviour.
“They have been generated from complaints and issues raised by members of the public, businesses and key stakeholders around issues of public safety. Some of these relate to long standing issues which cannot be easily resolved using the legislation currently available.”
The consultation will run until November 13 and a campaign launched on petition websitehas been set up to oppose the proposals.
Petition author Rebecca Cutts claimed the order would criminalise many of the city’s homeless and said: “Fining and persecuting people in [the] lowest socio-economic group, people that have to beg for money and can’t afford food, is only going to worsen the problem – not make things better.
Also concerned the proposals would prevent campaigners from setting up stalls in the city centre, Green Party leader Cllr Tom Crone said: “It’s difficult to believe that the council is proposing to implement such a draconian public control order which could have the effect of criminalising homeless people or those who are passionate about a cause.”
He has called on the city’s Labour majority to oppose the plans.
A specialist centre offering help for Liverpool’s street drinkers and homeless was set up near Lime Street over the summer. The impact of the service is currently being analysed by Liverpool John Moores University.
A council spokesman said the plans were not designed to deter political activity and added: “There is an ongoing consultation and no decision has been made. Before any decision is made all views will be taken into account.”