PLANS to threaten homeless people and beggars in Liverpool city centre with £1,000 fines were sensationally scrapped today, just days after the idea was exclusively revealed on Liverpool Confidential.
A public consultation exercise, due to run until next week, has also been cancelled with immediate effect.
The so-called Public Space Protection Order would have given officials the legal power to take action against people contravening the order, with fines of up to £1,000. It was devised by officers responding to complaints by residents and Liverpool BID, the Business Improvement District which oversees activities in the city centre.
A poll running alongside the Liverpool Confidential story showed people were 9-1 against the proposed control order.
It appears that Mayor Joe Anderson intervened to have the scheme scrapped after hearing about the proposals yesterday.
Cabinet member Cllr Steve Munby announced that proposal was being abandoned after having talks with Mayor Anderson.
Cllr Munby said: “People were setting out to address what are real issues in the city centre where we have beggars controlled by gangmasters, and touting. The proposal was not a decision by the council cabinet, but was drawn up by officers following complaints from residents and the BID.
“We are scrapping the whole idea and cancelling the consultation exercise. It is just not worth the trouble. We already have powers to deal with some of the issues that need to be resolved.
“It would also be pointless to bring in measures when we don’t have the staff to deal with it. There are though real issues in the city centre and we will use existing measures to deal with some of them.”
'A strong message to other local authorities'
Jonny Walker, busker, activist and founding director of the Keep Streets Live Campaign, said: “We welcome Liverpool City Council's decision to listen to growing concerns about the proposals to criminalise a range of informal community uses of public space in the city by abandoning the PSPO at the consultation stage.
“Their decision will bring relief to the city's homeless and other vulnerable people who would have faced punitive fines, as well as community groups that could have been dragged through the courts for gathering petition signatures on a table in the city centre without permission, or distributing food and drink to the homeless from a table or unauthorised temporary structure.
“The ill-thought-out proposals are a consequence of the extraordinarily wide powers given to local authorities in the Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 which have been used in other cities to criminalise rough sleeping, feeding birds, riding bicycles loitering and busking amongst many other activities.
It is to Liverpool City Council's credit that they have taken note of public concerns about these plans, and by abandoning them at this early stage they have sent a strong message to other local authorities who are considering similar measures.”