New police powers to tackle 'aggressive begging' in Wakefield, Pontefract and Castleford not 'appropriate'

A public consultation was held on whether or not to introduce PSPOs to deal with begging.
A public consultation was held on whether or not to introduce PSPOs to deal with begging.

Plans to introduce new police powers to tackle "aggressive begging" in the Wakefield district are set to be shelved.

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

PSPOs are already used in relation to street drinking across the district and the local authority had considered extending the orders to include begging.

But now after a public consultation and talks with the police, the council has concluded the measure would not be "appropriate".

A report, which will go before the council's Cabinet next week, 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. 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 says involves offering support to individuals such as help with housing, benefits or addiction.

But the prospect of issuing people with fines will be ruled out, if the Cabinet agrees to the report on Tuesday.

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

"We have taken on board the experiences of other local councils that PSPO’s are not the most effective way forward.

"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."

The PSPOs currently in place for street drinking, which have been heralded as a success since their introduction in 2017, are not affected by these proposals and will remain in place.