User menu

Close to 150 councils now using public spaces protection orders: report

Pressure group the Manifesto Club has found that almost 150 councils have imposed public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) covering everything from begging to public sexual activity.

The orders were introduced by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act in 2014. 

According to the Manifesto Group, councils are ignoring statutory guidance that requires them to target activity causing nuisance or harm, and not target rough sleeping or restrict the everyday uses of public places.

Its survey drew responses from 308 councils in England and Wales of which 147 had imposed a total of 276 PSPOs between August 2017 and January 2019, which it said was far in excess of the 189 issued between March 2016 and July 2017 in its previous survey.

Banned activities included begging, rough sleeping, and the use of swearing or foul language.

Less common banned actions included face coverings - imposed according to answers from Wandsworth, Runnymede and Liverpool - sexual activity in public, drop offs and pick ups outside schools and feeding birds.

Banned activities rated as “bizarre” by the Manifesto Club included possession of catapults or slingshots (Slough), dogs entering ornamental water features (Fylde) and a 9pm curfew for under-16s (Pendle).

There were 9,930 fines imposed for PSPO breaches according to the survey, most of them in places that employ private companies to issue fines on a commission basis.

The Manifesto Group said it would campaign for the scrapping of PSPOs.

Southampton City Council has already taken this step in a decision this month, after deciding that penalties against begging were ineffective.

A council spokesperson said: “A decision was made to remove the £100 fines for begging after finding the penalties had little effect.

“Few of these fixed penalties were paid and they did little to change the behaviour of these individuals.

“A review of the approach to enforcement available to tackle begging was undertaken and other interventions were found to have a greater deterrent effect.”

Mark Smulian