Exeter City Council PSPO proposal would criminalise buskers, the homeless and many more.

Exeter City Council PSPO proposal would criminalise buskers, the homeless and many more.

Please sign our petition against the criminalisation of the homeless, buskers and others in Exeter

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https://www.change.org/p/exeter-city-council-don-t-criminalise-exeter-s-rough-sleepers-or-destroy-their-belongings

Labour-led Exeter City Council’s new ‘Public Space Protection Order’ (PSPO) will give the police and council officers the power to criminalise activities that they deem to be ‘antisocial’ such as rough sleeping, begging, or even busking. Those who breach the order could be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £100 or a fine of up to £1000 and a criminal record. The order also gives the council the power to seize and destroy the bedding and personal possessions of homeless people (A measure, which, especially during winter could leave them incredibly vulnerable to adverse weather).
Please take a moment to complete the online consultation about these measures after reading this article by clicking on the link below:
Exeter City Council online PSPO consultation

 

Homelessness has risen by 50% since 2010 under the current government and a recent study demonstrated that nearly 100,000 children in England alone are homeless, a figure that the chief executive of children’s charity Barbados Javed Khan called ‘a national embarrassment’. A measure that effectively criminalises rough sleeping and associated behaviours in Exeter city centre will only increase (already high) levels of stigma surrounding Exeter’s homeless population.It privileges the appearance of Exeter over its’ citizens’ wellbeing, and risks treating rough sleepers as a problem to be dealt with, as an inconvenience, as a threat, rather than as individual human beings. We already know that homeless people are amongst the most vulnerable in our society and are already victims of exceptionally high levels of violence, crime and victimisation which is often committed by the general public and largely goes unreported.
These proposals could also see some of the most impoverished people in the UK facing criminal charges and unpayable fines of up to £1000 just for refusing to remove their bedding when ordered to by a council official, or busking ‘without authorisation’. The PSPO would also give council officers the power to order any person, or group of people to leave the city if they thought it was ‘likely’ that they might behave antisocially, a power that is wide open to abuse and misuse. Taken together, these powers are not only  an attack on the cultural life of Exeter’s public spaces, they are also an attack on freedom of expression and freedom of association as well as an attack on the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.

When Hackney Council introduced similar proposals, over 80,000 people signed a petition causing them to abandon their plans. When Oxford City Council introduced similar proposals over 72,000 people signed a petition asking them to think again and Liberty issued a legal challenge calling on them to abandon their unlawful attempts to criminalise homeless people and buskers. Liverpool City Council abandoned similar proposals at the consultation stage after a public outcry. Chester City and Cheshire West Council also abandoned their plans to criminalise busking and rough sleeping after a petition was signed by nearly 16000 people.

As Rosie Brighouse, Legal Officer for Liberty rightly pointed out in their legal challenge to Oxford:

“If somebody is forced to beg or sleep in a public toilet, that’s not antisocial behaviour – it’s poverty.  Oxford City Council should focus on finding ways to help the most vulnerable people in their city, not slapping them with a criminal record and a fine they can’t possibly afford to pay”

The Keep Streets Live Campaign is a not for profit organisation which advocates for public spaces which are open to informal offerings of art and music and other community uses.  We are calling on Exeter City Council to abandon their PSPO proposal. The council and police have strong existing powers to deal with the small minority of people who cause genuine antisocial behaviour, they have no need for the proposed sweeping and arbitrary measures.  We have seen public pressure prevent similar measures being adopted in Oxford, Westminster and Hackney and know that public pressure can stop this from happening in Exeter too. Let’s make sure that councils like Exeter and policy makers deal with the causes of homelessness such as lack of affordable housing rather than making the lives of the most vulnerable even harder.

Cheshire West and Chester City Council’s Assault on Street Culture

Cheshire West and Chester City Council’s Assault on Street Culture

Please sign the petition to stop the criminalisation of the homeless and buskers in Chester

Cheshire West and Chester Council have decided that it would be a good idea to deal with homelessness not by providing shelter for the vulnerable but by making it a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1000 to ‘lie down or sleep in any public place’.

In a wide-ranging proposal to tackle ‘antisocial behaviour’ in the city using controversial new Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) powers they are also planning to criminalise buskers who haven’t passed a ‘quality assessment’ first though the private business group CH1 BID company. This proposal turns council officials into civic Simon Cowells with a nasty twist, the power to give musicians a criminal record for singing songs on the streets. It is attack on the spontaneity and informality which is part of what makes busking such an integral part of Chester’s cultural heritage. Ludicrously, the proposed PSPO would also make it a criminal offence to ‘feed any bird’ in the defined area.

When Oxford City Council introduced similar proposals over 72,000 people signed a petition asking them to think again and Liberty issued a legal challenge calling on them to abandon their unlawful attempts to criminalise homeless people and buskers.

As Rosie Brighouse, Legal Officer for Liberty rightly pointed out in that challenge:

“If somebody is forced to beg or sleep in a public toilet, that’s not antisocial behaviour – it’s poverty. Oxford City Council should focus on finding ways to help the most vulnerable people in their city, not slapping them with a criminal record and a fine they can’t possibly afford to pay.

One of the architects of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s proposals, Chief Inspector Jez Taylor, a partnership officer with Cheshire Police, has justified them in the following terms:

“Chester is one of the best preserved medieval walled cities in the United Kingdom. Its Roman heritage and many assets including the cathedral, the walls, the racecourse, the zoo and the river…a PSPO will…improve the image of the city centre

But this approach to policy making privileges the appearance of Chetser and surrounding areas over its’ citizens’ wellbeing, and risks treating rough sleepers, the vulnerable and even buskers as a problem to be dealt with, as an inconvenience, as a threat, rather than as individual human beings.

 The Keep Streets Live Campaign is a not for profit organisation which advocates for public spaces which are open to informal offerings of art and music. We have successfully overturned policies which criminalised buskers in Liverpool and York where we now work with the councils to design best practise policies for street culture alongside groups like the Musician’s Union.

We are calling on Cheshire West and Chester Council to abandon their plan to criminalise rough sleeping, begging and busking. The council and police have strong existing powers to deal with the small minority of people who cause genuine antisocial behaviour, they have no need for the proposed sweeping and arbitrary measures.  We have seen public pressure prevent similar measures being adopted in Oxford, Westminster and Hackney and know that public pressure can stop this from happening in Chester too. Please take a moment to sign and share this petition to stop Cheshire West and Chester Council from making homelessness harder than it already is.