Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public.


(NOTE: There is a time limit of up to 30 minutes for the above item of business. In accordance with the arrangements published on the Council’s website, questions/petitions at the meeting are required to be submitted in writing, to, by 9.00 a.m. on Thursday 25th January 2023).




Ruth Hubbard attended the Committee meeting and asked a range of questions:


Q1.  From reading the report it is not at all clear to me why the existing and effective use of current enforcement measures are insufficient to tackle instances of anti-social behaviour in the city centre and why the committee would seek to ramp this up into the more generalised regulation of public spaces and behaviour. We all need to feel safe on our streets but.. Why, for example, is a group of students sitting in a green space having a can of beer at the end of an exam a problem? Or, indeed, a student and their visiting parents on graduation day having a picnic and sharing a bottle of wine. How are buskers and street entertainers affected by these proposals? And where is the evidence that passive begging affects quality of life of the more fortunate majority? Do we want to stop a child who has lost their bus fare from asking passers by if they can help? Are we really suggesting members of the public should become less tolerant, and begin to refuse to accept these kinds of behaviours, lowering the thresholds for intervention? And to want to cleanse or airbrush our streets and public spaces of people who struggle to or won't conform - in a cost of living, mental health, housing and inequality crisis and so on?


Q2.  Do we also want to make unelected council officers local lawmakers and enforcers whilst restricting civil liberties, having few checks and balances, and with much lower burdens of proof than is normally required? Is there not a much more positive vision and strategy that could be developed, or at least included, for what our city centre public streets and spaces mean, than extra regulation and criminalisation? Is all that’s being proposed really worth it, and a proportionate response?


Q3.  A narrative of 'public order' and of 'undesirables' has been pretty prevalent in the U.K, not least as we have seen applied by the current government. But I see early consultation or scoping work has already also been carried out and this seems to have prioritised business and corporate interests in determining how things should be, and we see councils increasingly aligning with these interests everywhere.. But what equivalent early consultation and scoping work has been carried out with those most likely to be disproportionately impacted by a PSPO or with those working with them, such as VCS, faith and other outreach groups, hostel and supported accommodation providers, homelessness, asylum seeker, migrant and youth organisations and so on. Or indeed with city centre residents/residents’ groups? Or is it as it appears in this report, that it's what local business interests state that really matters, and that will continue to be prioritised?


Q4. Presumably when it comes to enforcement there is a potential council resource likely to be involved if council officers are going to have enforcement powers. Might the council employ a private security firm to enforce a PSPO, as some councils have and which offers financial incentives for issuing FPNs? Will likely costs be consulted on and in relation to views about whether extremely constrained council budgets should be prioritised for enforcement activity and other costs? Do we know at this stage what financial implications there might be here for council budgets, or have these been anticipated?


Q5.  I note the local data provided. Why is there nothing, however, by way of evidence provided in the report, of the fairly extensive criticisms of, and problems with, PSPOs. Nor reporting of the extremely thin to negligible evidence base for any success that can be attributed to them?


Q6.  The proposed area for the PSPO appears to be widely drawn. It includes perhaps up to 25% of its area where there is the lowest level (nearly nothing) in terms of ASB reported. And fairly large local areas where there is barely much more. Is the proposed wide area necessary and proportionate as is required? (It doesn’t really appear so?)


Q7.  The serious studies that exist all draw the same conclusions including, of course, that they disproportionately target, impact and criminalise the most vulnerable, the poorest, young people, migrant groups, homeless people and so on. I note the talk of signposting to support services and an emphasis on harm reduction. But are poverty levels, inequalities, mental health etc so improved - and benefit levels, youth services, the housing situation and statutory and vcs sector funding also so improved that we expect to see a different picture and pattern emerging in Sheffield? How will monitoring be undertaken and responded to?


Q8.  If the report is agreed, will the council anonymise and make all consultation responses public?


The Chair promised a written response.


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