Birmingham City Council’s proposal to implement a Public Space Protection Order for the whole of the city centre for the next three years has come under intense scrutiny. Not just from the Housing & Neighbourhoods Overview & Scrutiny Committee within the council but also from many Labour councillors appalled at the imposition of the PSPO.
To criminalise some of the most vulnerable people in our society because they are homeless and suffer from medical and emotional problems is bad enough! But to not consult with those in the third sector who support vulnerable people on the streets shows how little the council understands (or wants to) how best to help those in need. I am not just calling out those councillors who proposed this, I am calling out the officials of the council who are plainly living in cloud cuckoo land, for not even thinking about how this order can be contemplated without talking to the people who day in day out support vulnerable people on the streets.
There have been some notable exceptions in putting a tower block in use to help house homeless families and should be applauded for the council doing something for the homeless in Birmingham. But, the PSPO strikes me as odd that you want a three year PSPO? Well, that’s easily answered, this is all to do with the Commonwealth Games in 2022. A council with a debt of around £4 billion that was brought about by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat run council and then the Labour run council that costs us £253 million a year to service and our Community Charge income being £300 million.
Yet the council found £200 million down the back of the sofa for the Commonwealth Games and is also borrowing £40 million for the games which they said they would not borrow according to Leader of the Council Ian Ward. I don’t mind a council borrowing to invest. Such as building homes, providing essential services to those in need & making our environment better. All three parties have wasted money and the council has also lost £750 million in cuts by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government and latterly with the Conservative Government. No council can cope with such savings and not have a knock on affect to the people they serve. And it is the people they serve who are up in arms about this PSPO! Even the proposed wording of the PSPO talks about criminalising people because they are homeless, sleeping rough is not a crime and even government Home Office guidance says as such. This should not have been put into the proposed PSPO documentation, even Councillor Cotton at scrutiny meeting said so.
So we now hope that moving forward the council both elected and unelected can come together and once and for all show some compassion to those in need, admit they have made mistakes in not consulting relevant groups and charities who help the homeless and work with everyone to ensure that if a PSPO is needed it does not criminalise those in need? As for those who have complained regarding aggressive begging, this is entirely different and can be resolved with powers the police have already and does not need a PSPO. If we need a PSPO in future it should be for a limited time not three years in length as proposed and if it is all about the Commonwealth Games then why not have a three month PSPO for time leading up to the games and para games and surely would be enough?