Public Support Action on Professional Beggars
Plans to discourage professional beggars from targeting Newcastle town centre have received support from the public.
A six-week public consultation exercise was carried out by the Council recently to gauge whether people agree with adding “persistent and aggressive” begging to a Public Space Protection Order covering the area which currently bans street drinking, substance misuse, rough sleeping, car cruising at the Midway, general anti-social behaviour and vandalism.
Out of 228 responses, 63 per cent considered that persistent and aggressive begging was a problem, 43 per cent said it discouraged them from visiting or shopping in the town centre and almost two thirds agreed that new measures should be introduced to address it.
The proposals are in response to an increase in persistent and aggressive begging over the past 12 months and also involve the removal of the warning notice stage meaning that anyone who ignores a condition in the order could receive a fixed penalty notice of up to £100. They will now be considered by the Public Protection Committee on 23 October.
Cllr. Jill Waring, Cabinet member for community safety and well-being, said: “I want to thank everyone who took the time to give the Council their comments on this very sensitive and emotive subject.
“Public Space Protection Orders address issues that are having a detrimental effect on the quality of life for those in the local community. Some residents reported issues with subways, public urination and constant requests for money and cigarettes by people who are drinking, to the point where they don’t enjoy coming into Newcastle anymore.
“Others expressed concerns about victimising homeless people and their ability to pay a penalty notice. However evidence shows that the problem is mostly being caused by people who have stable accommodation, are in receipt of benefits and travel to Newcastle by car. This isn’t about targeting vulnerable people – the Council will continue to do all it possibly can to support those who genuinely need help. Enforcement will be an absolute last resort.”