Recommendations on new powers to tackle city centre anti-social behaviour outlined

The outcome of the public consultation on a potential new Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to support a safe, clean and welcoming Manchester city centre has been published.

PSPOs are legal orders prohibiting specific acts in designated geographical areas which would give extra powers for authorised council and police officers to use when appropriate.

More than 2,000 people took part in the eight-week consultation on the proposed PSPO earlier this year.

Careful analysis of all the evidence, including the views of respondents, has been used to assess whether each proposed element reached the legal threshold for inclusion and suggest the way forward.

As a result, it is recommended to proceed with the city centre PSPO with some changes to the originally proposed prohibitions – including the removal of a proposal to include aggressive or intimidating begging in the order.

The Council is clear that its overriding priority is to support vulnerable people which includes people who are begging (and who in some cases are also sleeping rough.) Both Council and Greater Manchester Police outreach teams engage with people on the streets to connect them with services which can provide practical help to address their problems such as providing suitable indoor accommodation or linking them in with drug, alcohol or mental health services. Free meals are provided by indoor services, including those commissioned by the Council. 

The proposed PSPO is targeted to address specific anti-social behaviours which are unacceptable – people will absolutely not be fined because they are sleeping rough or homeless.


Recommendations

The proposed PSPO would have the following prohibitions, breaches of which would be subject to a £100 fixed penalty notice:

  • Consuming alcohol in a public space other than a licensed premises or area.

This is a condition already covered in the existing city centre PSPO.

  • Discarding hypodermic needles or syringes in a public space (except a proper sharps container)

This was a particular issue for city centre residents with 67% who responded on this issue saying it was a major problem.

  • Urinating or defecating in a public place other than a toilet

The council has committed to extending the opening hours of the Lloyd Street public toilets.

  • Failing to store commercial waste responsibly or arrange for its timely collection

The following requirements are also recommended as part of the PSPO:

  • Anyone who has placed commercial waste that is not properly contained in a public place should immediately clear it if asked to do by an authorised officer.

  • Anyone who obstructing a building entrance or exit or stairwell, or a footpath or road in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles can’t get past, must move within a reasonable time if asked to do so by an authorised officer

More than two thirds of respondents who answered questions on this requirement supported it. Comments included:

“The fire escapes in my office building are constantly blocked. In the event that we had a fire they could be trapping hundreds of people.” 

“We have had people blocking our entrance/exit to the building and I have had to ask them to move…It can be intimidating.” 

“It isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s frightening especially when it’s dark and you don’t know if a person is drunk or on drugs.”

  • Anyone who is occupying a tent or other structure in a way which causes a health hazard should move it within a reasonable time if asked to do so by an authorised officer.

This was included as a prohibition in the original proposed PSPO but is now instead a requirement if someone is asked to move where a specific problem has arisen to ensure a reasonable and proportionate response. Inside and around some tents there has been evidence of discarded food attracting rats; drugs paraphernalia and broken glass. Greater Manchester Police have said that tents in the city centre put their occupants at risk of harm. 

524 respondents to the questionnaire stated that they were affected by this issue on a daily or weekly basis.


Comments included:

“The dwellings often attracted rats as food and debris is left littering the public space – during their stay and after they have moved on.”

“I have a camp outside my living room window. I often see rats running across the pavement.” 


Begging

Aggressive or intimidating begging was included in the original proposed PSPO. Almost half of the people who responded to this part of the consultation (766 out of 1,597) said begging had a detrimental impact on their quality of life and a majority said it should be in the PSPO.

However, the majority of people did not agree with enforcement against people for aggressive or intimidating begging.

Engagement work with people who are begging - which is being pioneered by the council, police, voluntary and community organisations and other partners - is helping people reduce begging by supporting them to address some of the issues which have driven them to it. 

It is therefore considered that a PSPO prohibition, which would only be enforceable by a fine, would not be effective in reducing anti-social begging and tackling vulnerable people’s underlying needs and it is not included in the revised order.


Councillor Nigel Murphy, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said: “We have said throughout this process that we had an open mind and would listen to and carefully consider what people told us. That’s exactly what we’ve done.

“Our priority will always be to support anyone who is in need and connect them with services which can help them improve their lives. Our approach is assertive but supportive. 

“However we refuse to pretend, as some would have us do, that there are not issues which have a detrimental impact on people in the city centre which need to be positively addressed. It is easy to dismiss such concerns when you haven’t, for example, got discarded needles in your garden or someone sprawled on your stairwell. 

“I am confident that this proposed city centre PSPO will strike the right balance between being clear that there are certain anti-social behaviours which cannot be tolerated and ensuring an appropriate and proportional response.

“This is not a magic wand but it is an extra tool for the council and police to help address issues which have a negative impact on people’s experience of the city centre.”

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