Begging ban in Luton town centre?

The proposed PSPO area in Luton town centre
The proposed PSPO area in Luton town centre

Begging in Luton town centre could soon be a thing of the past as Luton Borough Council considers imposing a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).

At a meeting of LBC’s executive committee next Monday, councillors will consider imposing the PSPO which would last up to three years.

Banned behaviours in the town centre could include:

n Begging

n Spitting

n Urinating or defecating

n Street drinking

n Dog fouling

n Dogs not kept on leads

n Dogs out of control

In a survey, 82% of residents agreed that begging should be one of the restrictions in the town centre.

This was less than the other proposed restrictions which received over 90% of approval, with dog fouling coming in top at 99% followed closely by defecating at 98%.

The survey noted: “The majority of comments were of respondents who felt unhappy with the condition of the town centre, felt unsafe or in general, agreed with the PSPO restrictions.

“Respondents seem keen to see the town uplifted and made reference that the town as ‘no-go’ or they’re ashamed to be Lutonian.”

However there were concerns about whether the PSPO could be enforced due to lack of policing. Questions were also asked whether a ban on begging would be effective.

Other suggestions included extending the PSPO to include Manor Park, as well as concerns about charity collectors and salespeople, with some respondents reporting “aggression” and “harrassment” by canvassers.

LBC’s overview and scrutiny board supported proposals for the PSPO but expressed concerns regarding resourcing for enforcement and council officers were asked to explore other options as an alternative to the “huge fines” stated in the report.

Jim O’Connor, CEO of homeless charity Noah, said: “Street presence in respect of begging and drinking in Luton is an issue. Invariably the people who engage in either have an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

“Street begging in Luton has increased considerably since 2016. Giving to street beggars is an understandable expression of the compassion that people have for others in need.

“What is not appreciated is that, in most instances, the money given goes into the pockets of drug dealers.

“If we really want to help, we must encourage those begging to engage with support services, agencies that will help free them from the captivity of addiction. It would be far better for members of the public to invest in those agencies.

“The introduction of the Proposed Town Centre Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) are mechanisms to remove anti-social behaviour from the town centre and make it a more attractive and pleasant environment for the general public. That is a responsibility of the authorities.

“In so doing they will displace street drinkers and street beggars from that area and that may well act as an incentive to them to engage with services that will constructively help them.

“It is, however, simply moving the problem from one part of the town to another, not resolving it. Much is being done but more must be done to address the symptoms”.