Oxford delegates power to make new ASB laws to SINGLE council officers

One of the big questions about the implementation of the new wide-ranging ‘public space protection orders’ (PSPOs) was how councils will decide to pass them.

PSPOs allow for the council to ban anything which it judges has a ‘detrimental effect’ on the ‘quality of life’ of an area. But there are no proceedural requirements about how officials might go about this – so one council might require a PSPO to pass through full council, which would provide a democratic check; while other authority might delegate the law-making power to a single council officer.

This latter possibility is obviously extremely worrying, but extremely likely, given the emphasis in the use of these powers in a ‘speedy and flexible manner’.

Now, Oxford City council has resolved that only PSPOs affecting the city centre, or a large area of the city, will pass through the ‘city executive board’ (a group of 10 councillors with responsibility for overseeing council policy). Power to make all other PSPOs will be delegated to particular ‘senior council officers’, who have only to ‘consult’ the councillor responsible for the area concerned.

This means, in effect, that law-making power will be invested in single council employees – a situation not seen since the magistrates of the eighteenth century.

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