Manchester city council drops plans to fine rough sleepers


A controversial measure announced as part of a proposed crackdown on anti-social behaviour but has been dropped after more than 2,000 people voiced concerns.

Earlier in the year, Manchester council faced a backlash after revealing plans to fine rough sleepers £100 for ‘aggressive or intimidating’ begging.

An eight-week public consultation on the proposed Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) has revealed the move to be highly unpopular.

Despite almost half of respondents commenting that begging had a ‘detrimental impact on their quality of life’, most people did not agree with the council’s proposal.

Instead, hundreds said they’d rather see more support for people begging.

The council has consistently said that its overriding priority is to support vulnerable people and that the proposed measures are not intended to target rough sleepers unfairly.

But something still needs to be done for those finding discarded needles in their garden or feeling intimidated because they have someone sprawled on their stairwell.

So anyone caught dropping a syringe (except in a proper container), urinating in public or refusing to move from a doorway after being asked could still be hit with an on-the-spot fine as part of updated PSPO proposals due to go in front of the Town Hall next week.

The updated PSPO will also look to tackle businesses failing to store commercial waste responsibly or arrange for its timely collection and include actions on consuming alcohol in a public space (other than a licensed premises or area) – something already covered in the existing city centre PSPO.

Acknowledging the lack of public bathroom facilities available in the city centre, the council has committed to extending the opening hours of the Lloyd Street public toilets.

It is working with Greater Manchester Police to connect vulnerable residents with suitable indoor accommodation and link them in with drug, alcohol and/or mental health services.

The topic is a hot one for the council, especially considering that Greater Manchester’s metro mayor Andy Burnham staked his premiership on a pledge to eradicate homelessness in the region by 2020.

But despite numerous moves to do this – including donating 15% of his salary to his homelessness fund The Big Change, the introduction of flagship scheme A Bed Every Night, and work with the devolved NHS to enable people of no fixed address to register with a GP – last year he was forced to admit that the problem has become worse.

As a result, a new draft plan released in 2018 looked to co-ordinate efforts to tackle homelessness, based on what he called the four R’s: reduction, respite, recovery and reconnection.

It aimed to reduce the flow of people on to the street; use funds totalling £4.3 million to support respite projects; and introduce the new Housing First project across Greater Manchester to create permanent affordable housing.

Further commitments have come again this month as he announced a £6 million funding package for the second phase of his A Bed Every Night scheme. This will boost the number of available beds from 300 to 700 as the cold weather creeps in.

It will also enable more training of front-line staff and volunteers and improve signposting, screening and assessment into relevant health services.

The programme has so far helped more than 2,000 people off Manchester’s streets, 688 of whom are now in longer-term accommodation.

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