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Oxford ditches plan to ban rough sleepers

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Oxford City Council has ditched controversial proposals to ban rough sleeping using a so-called public spaces protection order.

An update on the proposed PSPO released yesterday afternoon said the order would no longer cover “pigeon nuisance” or street sleepers who had rejected the offer of “indoor accommodation”.

The update said “in both cases, the consultation process indicated that an order of this type was not likely to be the most effective way of tackling these issues”.

The city’s inclusion of rough sleepers within its draft order sparked controversy nationwide, forcing chief executive Peter Sloman to issue a public statement, defending the plan.

In a statement issued by the authority in April, he said its purpose was to tackle “persistent types of antisocial behaviour which can spoil the experience of using the city centre for residents, businesses and visitors”.

A petition against the move on the website attracted 72,280 signatures at the last count.

A report on the revised order will be considered by Oxford’s city executive board on 11 June.

Under the new plan, city council offers will gain powers normally employed by the police to tackle:

  • Persistent and aggressive begging
  • Sleeping in toilets
  • Urinating or defecating in public places
  • Cycling in controlled zones outside the permitted times
  • Busking which is in breach of the council’s code of conduct
  • Pedlars who do not observe the council’s code of conduct
  • Street drinking in circumstances which endanger public safety
  • Graffiti vandalism
  • Out-of-control dogs

These powers will allow officers to impose £100 fixed penalty notices or to initiate court proceedings which could lead to fines of £1,000.

Council leader Bob Price (Lab) said: “The draft proposed additional powers to deal with a small number of people who continue to sleep rough in the city centre despite having accommodation.

“We have discussed the proposal with our partners in dealing with homelessness and have concluded that there are more effective ways of tackling this problem; that section is not included in the current draft of the PSPO.

“Tackling homelessness is and will always remain a top priority for the council – this year alone we will spend almost £1.4m tackling the issue.”

Public space protection orders have been introduced by other authorities to ban rough sleeping. One put in place by Hackney LBC bans “sleeping rough in doorways or other public places”.

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