Blueprint to hand police extra powers in bid to combat ‘aggressive begging’ axed

The council was considering introducing public space protection orders (PSPOs) in Pontefract and Castleford town centre as well as the city centre.
The council was considering introducing public space protection orders (PSPOs) in Pontefract and Castleford town centre as well as the city centre.

Plans to introduce new police powers to tackle “aggressive begging” in the Wakefield district were shelved earlier this year with the council and other agencies deciding on a different approach.

The council was considering introducing public space protection orders (PSPOs) in Pontefract and Castleford town centres, as well as the city centre, which would mean beggars could be given on-the-spot £100 fines by officers.

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PSPOs are already used across the district to tackle street drinking and the local authority had considered extending the orders to include begging. But after a public consultation and talks with the police, the council has concluded the measure would not be “appropriate”.

The council instead decided to seek out an approach that would keep residents safe from intimidation and but understand the more complicated nature of begging.

A cabinet report said: “The police and the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) have indicated they do not think that the introduction of PSPOs to deal with aggressive begging will tackle the problem.

“They commented that the problem that we are experiencing in Wakefield is much wider than ‘aggressive begging’ and the majority of our issues. Begging is seen as undesirable and gives the impression that authorities may be failing individuals.

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“Beggars are among the most vulnerable people in our society and many of them are, or have been, rough sleepers and share the same complex set of problems, including high levels of mental ill-health and dependency on drugs or alcohol.”

A plan of action has instead been agreed to deal with the issue, which the report said involves offering support to individuals such as help with housing, benefits or addiction.

But the issuing people with fines was ruled out.

Council leader Peter Box said: “We want people to go about their daily life without being threatened or feeling intimidated.

“A campaign to raise public awareness, alternative-giving schemes, along with the council’s homelessness team is ensuring the correct intervention and support is available.”