Southampton 'begging ban' orders approved by council

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image captionFive areas in Southampton city centre will be covered by public spaces protection orders (PSPOs)

Plans to "ban" begging and street drinking in parts of Southampton have been approved by the city council.

Anyone found begging within five areas, including the city centre, could be issued with a £100 fine, and drinkers ordered to surrender alcohol.

The council said Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) would help to tackle the "increasingly prevalent" problems.

But campaigners accused the authority of "criminalising" vulnerable people.

'Professional beggars'

A report to the council's cabinet said vulnerable individuals will be "directed to support services" and the orders were geared towards "those who refuse help or to claim falsely to be homeless".

Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes said in response to the plans: "There is a difference between a genuine vulnerable person begging as a means to get by and someone who is a fraudster and tricking the public out of their goodwill and who are actually housed by the city.

"It is not about forcing those vulnerable individuals off the street, but rather to highlight the problem locally of "professional beggars" who are deceiving the public and local services."

The areas affected

  • Southampton city centre from Town Quay to Archers Road
  • Bitterne Precinct
  • Portswood Broadway
  • Woolston High Street
  • Shirley High Street

Campaign group Liberty, who previously threatened to challenge the scope of such an order in court, said local authorities "should focus on finding ways to help the most vulnerable - not criminalise them".

A spokesman from the group added: "If somebody is forced to beg or spend the night in a public toilet, that's not a lifestyle choice or anti-social behaviour - that's extreme poverty."

PSPOs were created in 2014, and allow local authorities to ban certain activities they believe are having a "detrimental impact" on the quality of life.

Critics have said the powers risk creating a "patchwork" of laws, with different rules from town to town.

Signs informing people about the PSPOs will cost £5,160, Southampton City Council said.

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