Open letter to Ian Ward about the proposed Public Space Protection Order

Dear Leader of Birmingham

I am writing to you to raise concerns regarding the Public Space Protection Order which has been proposed for Central Birmingham, and in particular, the impact this may have on rough sleepers.
Rough sleeping is a significant issue in Birmingham. It is noteworthy that cuts to local government services, and the rollout of Universal Credit, have had a significant impact on the most vulnerable in our city. Local charities are overstretched and support services are at breaking point. However, those most affected by austerity should not be made to bear the brunt of this appalling situation.

There has been much promotion of the PSPO as a means of tackling anti-social behaviour in Birmingham. Whilst I wholeheartedly support any efforts by law enforcement to protect all citizens from being victims of aggressive and violent behaviour, I have strong concerns about certain sections of this proposal. In particular, those relating to obstruction of footpaths by a person or their belongings, and begging (not specified in the draft as aggressive), may not apply solely to rough sleepers, but would certainly have an impact on the homeless community in general.

I have spoken to Liberty and the Community Law Partnership, both of whom have raised serious concerns regarding these proposals. You will have already seen their objections, so I will not replicate them here. I would also like to refer to studies undertaken by national charities which overall conclude that crimialisation does not assist in the rehabilitation of rough sleepers. I am happy to direct you to this information in more detail upon request.

Recently, individual cases of homeless people being imprisoned as a result of similar orders in other cities have highlighted how they can have a detrimental impact on such vulnerable people. In addition, a petition supporting the campaign ‘Say No to the Birmingham PSPO’ has already attracted nearly four hundred signatures, including those of some local councillors.

In the light of these objections, I would like to request that you withdraw the proposed PSPO, and instead continue to work with local charities to enable rough sleepers to find secure accomodation, with access to appropriate support services. Aggressive and violent behaviour can then be dealt with separately by local law enforcement in the best interests of the whole community.

I look forward to hearing from you, and am more than happy to discuss with you in more detail the issues raised in this letter.

Yours faithfully
Joanne Shemmans
(Say No to the Birmingham PSPO)

Join us at 5pm on 21st May in Victoria Square to oppose this proposal!

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