Begging clampdown in South Tyneside 'not intended to hit homeless people with a big stick'
Plans to clampdown on begging are not intended to ‘hit people who are homeless with a big stick’, town hall chiefs have insisted.
Bosses in South Tyneside are mulling over a raft of new measures to deter a range of offences and ‘nuisance’ issues, including street drinking, late night fishing and inappropriate use of jet skis.
But they have had to defend themselves against claims the latest draft of rules could unfairly target vulnerable people, or even legitimate activities such as busking.
“The restrictions we are proposing during this consultation is not to hit people who are homeless with a big stick, or anything like that,” said David Owen, one of the council officials working on the proposals.
“Staff will be trained to signpost and support these people who are being seen to be begging on our streets.
“The evidence that we’ve got from our police colleagues and our homeless [support service], is people in general who are begging are coming in from outside the borough, have got homes, and they’re just relying on the generosity of our residents to give them money for them to go and potentially feed a habit elsewhere
“It’s basically a deterrent, to say that people don’t bother coming to South Tyneside to beg and ply your trade like that.”
Mr Owen presented details of the borough’s proposed renewal of its Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) at a meeting of South Tyneside Council’s Riverside Community Area Forum (CAF) on January 26, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.
Begging is among the activities in the sights of the PSPOs, breach of which could result in fines worth £100, rising to £1,000 if it leads to a criminal prosecution.
The suggested restriction would cover ‘making verbal, non-verbal or written request, including the placing of hats or containers for money, donations or goods’.
But concerns have been raised about possible unintended consequences.
Green Party opposition councillor David Francis said: “It covers people busking, but it also covers me with a sponsorship form asking for people to donate to my great, Great North Run crowdfunder.
“It just seems too vague.
“I’m just worried that it’s so broad, that it potentially demonises people or puts the fear of God into people who were just going about their business and not causing anyone a problem.”
Visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/pspo to find out more about the consultation and have your say.