Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Begging plans for Southampton criticised by Society of St James

Person begging
Image caption Southampton City Council is proposing public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) in five areas of the city

Plans to fine people found begging on the streets of Southampton have been criticised by a homelessness support charity.

The city council's public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) would give the police powers to move beggars on and impose fines.

The Society of St James said it would criminalise the needy and vulnerable.

The council insisted it was trying to cut down on "con-artist beggars".

Under the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, local authorities can use PSPOs to ban certain activities they believe are having a "detrimental impact" on the quality of life.

Labour-controlled Southampton City Council has published its plans for PSPOs covering the city centre as well as parts of Bitterne, Portswood, Shirley and Woolston.

'Wheedle out'

More than 60,000 people signed a petition in Oxford opposing plans for a similar scheme in the city.

Trevor Pickup, chief executive of the Society of St James, which works with homeless and vulnerable adults in Southampton, said he was "very concerned".

"We've got vulnerable people with drug, alcohol and mental health issues on the streets and tackling that with a criminal justice approach is just not appropriate.

"People don't give up drug problems if they've been issued with an enforcement order."

Warwick Payne, council cabinet member for housing and sustainability, said cracking down on "overt street begging" was a popular idea.

"Quite a lot of people who are begging we think are not homeless at all.

"It's trying to make sure we give services and support to those who need it and also wheedle out those who are portraying themselves as homeless and conning Sotonians into giving money out of the goodness of their hearts."

The consultation period is due to end on 11 December.

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