Councils accused of ‘social cleansing’ with £100 fines for rough sleeping

Town halls are increasingly applying for orders which give them more power to crack down on acts associated with homelessness

From The Mirror-

“Town halls are today accused of practising a “form of social cleansing” by seizing powers to slap fines of up to £100 for rough sleeping, begging and loitering.

Public Spaces Protection Orders continue to be passed by local councils to crack down on acts associated with homelessness – despite Home Office guidance not to target society’s most vulnerable.

New figures show councils have made a record number of PSPOs, criminalising acts such as feeding birds, cycling in public spaces and free running, according to a civil liberties group.

Colchester council in Essex fined four people for putting up an A-frame, while Caerphilly council fined one person for loitering at the bus station.

Richmond in South-West London banned the moving of stones or turf and carrying out fitness classes, while Kirklees, West Yorks, outlawed fireworks and sky lanterns.

Other new orders banned urban sports like parkour, face coverings, and offering casual work – while Slough, Berks, banned possessing catapults.

Some 22 councils have banned begging, 10 prohibited loitering, and three banned leaving belongings in public, according to the figures.

The figures were uncovered by civil liberties group the Manifesto Club using Freedom of Information requests to every council in England and Wales.

Director Josie Appleton said: “Thousands of people are being criminalised for actions such as sitting on the floor, appealing for charity donations or asking for casual work.

“PSPOs often target the homeless and others who lack the power to defend themselves.

“These orders are illiberal, scary and a public joke.”

Introduced in 2014, PSPOs let local authorities ban behaviour deemed to have a “detrimental effect” on “the local community’s quality of life”.

But critics say the “petty” powers are being used over-zealously to punish people for “entirely innocuous actions”.

The number of fines of up to £100 jumped – with 9,930 fixed penalty notices issued in 2018 – compared with just 470 in 2015 and 1,906 in 2016.

Liberty lawyer Rosie Brighouse said: “PSPOs are a very blunt instrument – they can only lead to people being fined.

“We also worry in a lot of ways it’s a form of social cleansing.”

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Tim Clement-Jones said: “The shocking rise in petty PSPOs and fines means that thousands of people are being punished for entirely innocuous actions.”

He urged Government to introduce “other ways of preventing the abuse of these powers and their use against the most vulnerable in society”….”

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