Councillors to debate fines for beggars and street drinkers

Picture: Derek Martin
Picture: Derek Martin

Next week councillors will decide whether to consider controversial plans to fine street drinkers and aggressive begging.

Following a period of public consultation, members of Worthing Borough Council will discuss the feedback and decide whether to press ahead with plans to implement Public Space Protection Orders.

Members of Worthing People's Assembly Against Austerity have set up a petition against the plans to implement Public Space Protection Orders in the town

Members of Worthing People's Assembly Against Austerity have set up a petition against the plans to implement Public Space Protection Orders in the town

These orders give local authorities the power to ban anti-social activities in a specific area, with fines of up to £1,000 for breaching them.

But Worthing People’s Assembly Against Austerity has claimed it would criminalise being homeless.

The group has set up a change.org petition against the plans which has attracted more than 5,200 signatures.

Luke Angel, 31, from Park Crescent, Worthing, has spearheaded the movement.

It’s a toothless law that appeals to people against problem drinkers, but criminalises the homeless and legitimises prejudice against them

Luke Angel from Worthing People’s Assembly Against Austerity

He said: “Worthing Borough Council should be turning their attention to reopening the night shelters so vulnerable homeless people have a safe place to go and are able to access help to get themselves off the streets.

“An argument that would appeal to Conservatives is that it would be a waste of resources. The police have said they won’t touch this law, so the council would have to train people to enforce it, much like a parking attendant, and they wouldn’t have any legal powers. It’s a toothless law that appeals to people against problem drinkers, but criminalises the homeless and legitimises prejudice against them.

“I’m hoping that based on the fact that it is a waste and ineffectual that they won’t follow this through, but it is Worthing Council we’re talking about so I don’t know.”

Councillor Edward Crouch said that while he is glad that the petition brought the issue to the public’s attention, he didn’t agree with its focus.

He said: “This consultation was about engaging with local people to seek their views on ways to resolve the problem of anti social behaviour, street drinking and aggressive begging.

“It is not as some left wing commentators have suggested a ploy to ‘criminalise the homeless’ any more than a speeding ticket is a ploy ‘criminalizing those in a hurry’.

“Pure and simple it is about ensuring our town is a safe and enjoyable space for residents and the thousands of visitors we welcome each year. Some vulnerable people are also affected by this.

“Tourism is really important for Worthing. It supports 1,300 jobs and generates £170m. If Worthing gets a reputation for anti-social behaviour and not being safe or family-friendly, it will have a negative effect on job prospects and our economy.”