Say No to the Birmingham Public Space Protection Order

In Birmingham, as across the nation, homelessness has more than doubled since 2010, with the impact of austerity being felt most keenly by the most vulnerable in our society. With cuts to local council budgets and support networks such as those which offer help to individuals with issues such as mental health, domestic violence and addiction issues, and with the continuing decline in social housing and secure accommodation, it is increasingly difficult for local charity organisations to cope with the need for their services.

Birmingham City Council have proposed implementing a Public Space Protection Order (see link below), which would cover central Birmingham and has the potential to be kept in place for three years, having a significant impact on those sleeping rough in our city. Whilst BCC are promoting it as a means to deal with Anti-Social Behaviour, one has only to look at the detail of the PSPO to see how this could impact homeless people. A fine for obstructing a doorway or begging would be practically impossible for a homeless person to pay, inevitably leading therefore to a criminal conviction that would make it even harder for someone in already difficult circumstances to turn their life around. Prohibition of acts such as urinating in public might at first seem reasonable, until we take into account that there are no free 24hr public toilet facilities in Birmingham City Centre, leaving anyone sleeping on the street with little alternative overnight.

It has been suggested that there is a bed in Birmingham for everyone who wants one. This is simply not the case; there are not enough beds for the number of people most recently recorded as sleeping rough in the city centre(close to a hundred), and many overnight facilities have limitations, e.g. are only available in cold weather, or will not take dogs (which many rough sleepers keep for security and companionship).

Crisis has made a national statement on the impact of PSPO’s in other cities, which can be found here:

https://www.crisis.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/rough-sleepers-being-targeted-by-legal-powers-designed-for-antisocial-behaviour/

It is noteworthy that Liberty also oppose such orders, and have helped to prevent them being implemented in the past.

Say No to the Birmingham PSPO is a campaign group set up to challenge this issue, and can be found on FB, along with the link to the ongoing online petition: https://www.facebook.com/Say-No-to-the-Birmingham-PSPO-566984807156377/

The BCC consultation on the PSPO has now closed, but Sharon Thompson, the Cabinet Member for Housing, can be contacted by email, as well as your own local councillor or MP, or Leader of Birmingham City Council, Ian Ward.

Please support and share the resolution attached, which was passed by Moseley and Kings Heath Labour Party and unanimously at Birmingham Unite Community Branch. Please also encourage members to sign the petition above, and to contact local Labour politicians to ask them to raise concerns on your behalf. As the Metro Mayor campaign gets underway, it would be beneficial to challenge candidates who make homelessness one of their keys issues to make public stance on the PSPO.

Say No to the Birmingham PSPO will continue to oppose this proposal, and updates, including details of future protest events, will appear on the FB page, so please sign up, and support us in speaking up for homeless people in Birmingham.

Here is the link to the draft BIRMINGHAM CITY COUNCIL (City Centre) PUBLIC SPACE PROTECTION ORDER 2019:

https://www.birminghambeheard.org.uk/place/birmingham-city-centre-pspo-consultation/supporting_documents/PSPO%20Prohibitions%20Final%20%20City%20Centre%20WATERMARKED.pdf

And here is the Draft resolution

BIRMINGHAM CITY CENTRE PSPO CONSULTATION 2019

This branch notes:

  • the intention of Birmingham City Council to introduce a public Space Protection Order (PSPO) (“the proposal”) for Birmingham City Centre.
  • The proposal is currently subject to public consultation which commenced on the 22nd March and is due to close on 2nd The consultation documents appear on the Council’s Be Heard website.
  • The government has issued statutory guidance to local authorities about the use of PSPOs. This states:

“Homeless people and rough sleepers – Public Spaces Protection Orders should not be used to target people based solely on the fact that someone is homeless or rough sleeping, as this in itself is unlikely to mean that such behaviour is having  an unreasonably detrimental effect on the community’s quality of life which justifies the restrictions imposed.

[Page 51, Anti-Social Behaviour Powers – Statutory Guidance for Frontline Professionals]

  • The Council’s consultation documents include a draft order which lists the behaviours which would be prohibited under it and which could result in criminal sanction. The order includes the following paragraph:
  1. Obstructing footpaths and highways:
  2. No person or their personal effects shall prevent or hinder the street cleansing activity of the Council within the Restricted Area.
  3. No person or their personal effects shall hinder the free passage of pedestrians or vehicles along the public footpath or highway within the Restricted Area.
  4. No person shall or their personal effects shall obstruct ingress or egress from any building within the Restricted Area.
  5. An authorised officer may request that a person remove themselves from the footpath or highway where they reasonably suspect a person is causing, or is likely to causes nuisance and/or disorder within the Restricted Area.

 [Emphasis added]

  • That the wording of this paragraph – and in particular the reference to “personal effects” – means that it is intended to apply to rough sleepers.

On this basis the branch considers that the proposal is inappropriate and ought to be withdrawn.

Accordingly the branch resolves to instruct its secretary to:

1. submit a consultation response stating the branch’s position and the reason for it;

2. write to the relevant cabinet member with responsibly for this proposal setting out the branch’s position and request that the proposal be withdrawn;

3. write to the secretary of the Labour Group in the same terms;

4. write to all Birmingham councillors requesting that they

a) raise the matter in Labour Group and with the Cabinet Member responsible;

b) request that any decision in respect of this proposal not be delegated to officers but be taken by elected councillors whether in Cabinet or at Full Council;

c) oppose the proposal

5. initiate a campaign within the wider Labour movement to oppose the PSPO, with all those affected

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