Redbridge Council is currently consulting on a PSPO that will ban busking in non-designated spots, badly organised pubic events, charity collectors in non-designated spots, spitting and ‘aggressive begging’. The Manifesto Club strongly opposes this order and considers it to be an unreasonable intervention into public freedoms. Our response to the consultation is below. You can respond to the consultation here.
- Planned PSPO: “No person shall refuse to stop drinking alcohol or hand over any containers (sealed or unsealed) which are believed to contain alcohol, when required to do so by an authorised officer in order to prevent public nuisance or disorder.”
Manifesto Club response: There is already an offence of drunk and disorderly behaviour. Blanket alcohol confiscation powers can and are used to target those who are not actually doing anything wrong, but of whom officials may disapprove. This particularly affects the homeless, who unlike other people do not have the option of drinking at home or in a pub.
- Planned PSPO: “Persons performing street entertainment may only do so whilst located within one of the (four) designated areas within Ilford Town Centre; for a period of no longer than two hours; and may not return within a twenty four hour period. No person shall perform any type of street entertainment that causes a nuisance to nearby premises or members of the public. This includes obstructing the highway or shop entrances.”
Manifesto Club response: There are surely more than four locations where it is possible and suitable to busk in the town centre. Your PSPO proposes to create an offence of busking in a non-designated spot. This is grossly out of proportion. There is already an offence of obstructing the highway – the difference being that this must be proven in court, rather than punished with an on-spot fine on the say-so of a particular official. Buskers in general are attempting to please and appeal to the public: they wouldn’t make any money if they did not. The concept of anti-social busking is a nonsense.
- “Fundraising may only take place within one of the two designated areas within Ilford Town Centre; with no more than 3 fundraisers present within each area; and for a maximum of 3 non-consecutive days in any week commencing Monday. No person shall fundraise in a way that causes a nuisance to nearby premises or members of the public. This includes obstructing the highway or shop entrances.”
Manifesto Club response: These are public places. A person fundraising is a member of the public approaching another member of the public to ask them to support their cause. If they are not interested they will not stop. What right does the council have to legislate the number of fundraisers that can be present in a street? (any more than it can legislate the number of footballs present in a park, or dogs present on a road). Fundraisers will naturally spread out and not cramp an area; annoying the public is not their intention, nor will it help their cause. Do you really plan to fine the Royal British Legion because they have four war veterans selling poppies on the same road? Or medical students in a funding drive for a children’s cancer charity?
- “All organised events considered eligible by the London Borough of Redbridge Safety Advisory Group (SAG) will only be allowed to go ahead if they are given their prior approval, and meet any recommendations required. It is the responsibility of the organiser to ascertain whether their event is eligible, as defined within the SAGs terms of reference.”
Manifesto Club response: The aim of this proposal is unclear. Are you planning to create an offence of failing to consult the SAG before holding an event? If so, this would criminalise holders of small community events who failed to submit their event for consideration. It also appears that it would criminalise events which do not abide by the recommendations of the SAG (which may be unreasonable). This would mean giving a council body the power of diktat over all events that occur in public, which is inappropriate. The council has an organisation role, of course, but this should not be of an overweening nature.
- “No person within a group of two or more shall refuse to leave an area when required to do so by an authorised officer in order to prevent anti-social behaviour, public nuisance or disorder.” Do you support the introduction of a PSPO to enable persons acting in an anti-social way to be moved on by authorised officers in Valentines, Clementswood and Loxford wards? This may include groups of street drinkers or persons behaving in an intimidating manner towards members of the public.
Manifesto Club response: If somebody is committing a public order offence they should be prosecuted for it. What does ‘acting in an anti-social way’ mean? This is not an objective definition of an offence, and it will be left to the whim of the officers to decide whom to bar. If street drinkers are not causing public harm then they have as much right to use public spaces as everyone else. There are already grave problems with the police use of dispersal powers, which are being used widely against groups including the homeless and political protesters. It is a serious matter to restrict a person’s freedom of movement. Council officers should certainly not have blanket dispersal powers.
- “No person shall aggressively beg. Aggressive includes begging near a cash machine or begging in a manner reasonably perceived to be intimidating or aggressive.”
Manifesto Club response: Begging near a cash machine is not aggressive. Aggression is threatening somebody else, such that they fear for their safety (which, again, is already an offence). Begging near a cash machine merely makes the point that some people have money and others do not: it is an attempt to appeal or persuade. People may feel pressured or uncomfortable but this doesn’t make it aggressive: indeed, we should argue that we should feel uncomfortable about the existence of homelessness and poverty. So long as homelessness exists it should not be airbrushed out of city life.
- “No person shall spit in a public place. This includes the doorway or alcove of any premises to which the public has access.”
Manifesto Club response: The government previously gave spitting as an example of the kind of activity on which it was not appropriate to pass bylaws (on the basis that spitting, though rude, did not cause significant public harm). Spitting in a rude or disrespectful manner is something that should be regulated through mores and social pressure rather than the criminal law. Furthermore, there are certain occasions (such as occasionally when jogging) where people may want or need to spit, and can do so in an unobtrusive manner without offending or otherwise affecting other members of the public.