Is 'hardcore' street drinking blighting Luton town centre? Councillors call on Beds Police for enforcement

Bedfordshire Police should be using enforcement powers to prevent "a hardcore" of drinkers gathering in Luton town centre, a meeting heard.

Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 1:17 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 1:21 pm
Is street drinking blighting Luton town centre

Bedfordshire Police should be using enforcement powers to prevent "a hardcore" of drinkers gathering in Luton town centre, a meeting heard.

Members of the borough council's Labour executive agreed the force should be held to account in an attempt to remove the problem.

Councillors were considering whether to renew and extend a public spaces protection order (PSPO) in the town centre, and being asked how it can be made more effective.

Talks are planned with Chief Constable Garry Forsyth next week, the executive was told.

Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks said: "The big issue for the overview and scrutiny board is the PSPO isn't doing what was intended.

"A lot of that is concerned with the resources available to make it happen. Yes, it's about enforcement, but not just that.

"There are other arms that could be used which is why the board suggested you talk to the police, NOAH Enterprise and other agencies the council works with to find a way to make it more effective.

"We want the town centre to prosper and thrive. It won't unless we can make this order work."

Labour Dallow councillor Abbas Hussain agreed, saying: "We're already in talks with the police, Noah and other agencies.

"There's a bigger part to it than just the enforcement side, so all of us have to be on the same page to eradicate it."

Labour Lewsey councillor Aslam Khan explained the purpose of an integrated approach for those people who needed help and might be homeless, is to ensure the council provides effective support to get them off the street.

"Those who needed help have now got the support and are off the streets," he said.

"But the hardcore people still remain. I was just walking down George Street and saw at least 20 people drinking on the benches.

"I think the police aren't using those extended powers and we need to hold them to account.

"Initially with that partnership they were supposed to work with us and if the problem escalated they were meant to intervene.

"I don't think they're playing their part. Somehow we need to start getting them to do their job."

Councillor Hussain, who's the executive member for inclusive economy

neighbourhood services and community safety, replied: "I agree with you fully and we're starting those negotiations with the police.

"I have a meeting with Garry Forsyth next week."

Labour Challney councillor Tom Shaw said: "We need to take it a little wider than NOAH because it's one small part of what's called Luton Homeless Partnership.

"On there you've got people who work in mental health, you've got drug and alcohol people.

"What we've got in the town centre are people that are professional, a hardcore, one with all sorts of addiction problems.

"They have got properties to go to, flats or bedsits. The homeless partnership is housing them.

"I believe we've got to get them out of the town centre, but where do we push them to?" he asked.

"We came down heavily in the town centre and then had problems with people begging at Tesco in Crawley Green Road because they were pushed out.

"We've got the first big step towards tidying up the town, but we can't do that at the expense of some of the other parts."

Labour Limbury councillor Rob Roche said: "These people are still quite vulnerable. Perhaps that's the softer side, but we need to take that into consideration."

The executive agreed to renew and extend the PSPO, and to consult other relevant agencies.