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Views sought on ideas to tackle street begging

Published on Monday, September 11, 2017

PEOPLE in Leicester are being asked for their views on the help provided to those who beg on the city’s streets, and on the potential introduction of new powers to tackle anti-social behaviour associated with begging.

Begging is a growing national issue, and this is reflected on the streets in Leicester.  It is sometimes associated with homelessness. A range of help and support is available for rough sleepers in Leicester, offering food, warmth and accommodation. Local services are provided for people who have problems with drugs and/or alcohol. These support services work hard to help people out of begging.

It is estimated that there are around 50 people who beg on Leicester’s streets, with around 10-15 of these begging at any one time in a 24-hour period. The majority of the people who beg in the city are known to the council or its partners, and most have access to secure accommodation.

Residents, businesses and visitors regularly raise concerns with the city council and the police about the extent of begging, especially in the city centre. Complaints have been received about aggressive and nuisance behaviour, noise, harassment, intimidation and other anti-social behaviour associated with street begging.

To help respond to this, an eight-week consultation has been launched today (11 Sep) asking people for their views on begging, on what more could be done by way of support, and on the potential introduction of a citywide Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to help tackle problems associated with persistent street begging.

The new PSPO would mean that police and authorised council officers could order people to stop begging where there is a link to anti-social or disorderly behaviour, and where offers of help provided by local support services are rejected. Anyone failing to comply with the order could face arrest.

Cllr Abdul Osman, Assistant City mayor for Strategic Partnerships and Change, said: “This consultation is not about targeting vulnerable or homeless people in a negative way.

“Street begging is a complex issue that affects most cities in the UK. We need to make sure we have the right tools and support in place to ensure that begging is managed effectively in Leicester, and that it doesn’t become a growing problem.

“The council and police already work hard to make sure that anyone who is begging and in genuine need of help can get the right support from the many services available in Leicester. If people think there is more that can be done, we want to hear their ideas.

“But where begging is persistent and people are refusing to access support services, or where it is linked to anti-social behaviour or is having a detrimental impact on others, it is important that we have the right powers to tackle it.

“Before we make any decisions, we want to hear people’s views as part of this public consultation.”

Public Space Protection Order powers were given to councils under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

A citywide PSPO covering street drinking is already in place in Leicester. A recent consultation into a proposed order tackling the issue of so-called ‘legal highs’, or new psychoactive substances (NPS), attracted 658 responses, with over 86 per cent supporting the proposal. A decision on whether this will be introduced is due to be taken in the coming weeks.

People can take part in the street begging consultation by completing an online questionnaire at www.leicester.gov.uk/consultations

Closing date for comments is Sunday 5 November 2017.

Begging is already an offence under the Vagrancy Act 1824.