Hackney Council has denied reports that it is planning to re-consider fining homeless people up to £1,000 for causing a “detrimental” effect on local residents.
The council found itself at the centre of a social media maelstrom last year when it emerged that councillors were considering introducing Public Space Protection Orders that would have given police the power to issue spot fines to rough sleepers.
More than 80,000 people signed a petition against the proposal, resulting in its withdrawal. However, this week, a report in the Hackney Citizen referred to a document that suggested PSPO’s might be reintroduced in future.
The document, published by the Community Safety and Social Inclusion Scrutiny Commission, comprising six Hackney councillors, says: “The Commission also recommends monitoring the effectiveness of the PSPO in other boroughs and draw on this learning for future implementation.”
A spokesperson for the council told ELL: “We categorically will not use PSPOs in relation to rough sleeping and homelessness.” However, she was unable to say whether it would introduce them for anything else.
In an earlier online statement, the council said: “The Hackney Citizen article ‘Future PSPOs: we will not rule them out, says Hackney Council’ is entirely misleading and inaccurate.
“The Council will not be introducing a PSPO including any reference to rough sleeping and certainly does not regard the views of residents as a passing social media campaign’.”
Last year, the public and media accused Hackney Council of hypocrisy, as the PSPO appeared to contradict its homelessness strategy, which says: “Hackney Council remains committed to preventing and reducing homelessness, tackling the main causes of homelessness and supporting those in need.”
Support for the withdrawal of PSPO’s and the police’s ability to issue fines to people loitering, begging and sleeping rough was overwhelming, and was backed by celebrities.
I’m looking at you Hackney Council. How could you do this to vulnerable people who need you the most? I can’t deal with your ignorance
— Ellie Goulding (@elliegoulding) June 3, 2015
Major criticism came following the recommendation that the Council avoid influence from social media. “…It is important that the Council is not swayed by passing social media campaigns but that instead, it engages in public discussion that addresses concerns head on without being confrontational or defensive.”
Hackney homeless charity Digs said:
“Let us assure @hackneycouncil that there is nothing ‘passing’ in the strength of local feeling against the criminalisation of homelessness”
— Digs (@Hackney_renters) April 19, 2016