Agenda item

Agenda item

Approach to City Centre Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO)

To consider a report concerning a city centre consultation process to determine the standards of acceptable behaviour and the acceptability and appropriateness of a City Centre Public Spaces Protection Order for tackling particular behaviours. This report will be considered by the City Executive Board on 13 March for decision.


The Committee had before it a report concerning a city centre consultation process to determine the standards of acceptable behaviour and the acceptability and appropriateness of a City Centre Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) for tackling particular behaviours, destined for the City Executive Board on 13 March 2019.


The Chair introduced the item by reminding the Committee that the previous City Centre PSPO had lapsed and this report provided the first step in consideration of the desirability of a new PSPO and the form such an Order might take.


The Board Member for Safer, Greener Oxford,  Councillor Tom Hayes, said the report sought to introduce an additional layer of consultation prior to the introduction of a new PSPO. Before proceeding with a new PSPO it was important to establish a consensus about what the wider community see as acceptable behaviour and the appropriateness of a PSPO for tackling that which is  unacceptable; this is what the proposed consultation sought to achieve.  It was important to be very clear that the possible introduction of a new PSPO did not seek to criminalise rough sleeping.  The Council’s wish to help and support those who are rough sleeping was unambiguous and all steps were taken to encourage rough sleepers to access the services available to them.


Councillor Aziz addressed the Committee, citing examples of homeless people having been victims of extremely anti-social behaviour by others. She argued that all steps should be taken to protect their interests and that consideration should be given to a rough sleepers’ protection policy.


In a wide ranging discussion the following points were raised by the Committee among others:


  • An appraisal of people’s views, via the consultation,  of acceptable behaviour was welcome but there was perhaps too much of a focus on a PSPO as a possible means of addressing unacceptable behaviour
  • The data provided showed that recourse to the previous PSPO was very infrequent which begged a question about the need for a new one. On the other hand, that it was only necessary to have recourse to the PSPO on  6 occasions out of 1000 was evidence of it being a successful deterrent
  • The period now underway without a PSPO in place provided a useful opportunity to see whether its absence was detrimental
  • A new PSPO might   however provide a useful tool for the Council to help keep the City safe for all members of the public, in relation to certain behaviours such as the discarding of drug paraphernalia.
  • The existence of a PSPO did not sit comfortably alongside the Council’s other multi-disciplinary approaches to supporting and helping those who are homeless or rough sleeping
  • It was imperative that a consultation was truly inclusive, gathering the views all those with an interest in the matter
  • It would be helpful to have a clearer idea of the police’s role and views about prevention, deterrent and enforcement in this area.
  • While it was clear that there was no intention to victimise those who were homeless or rough sleeping, the nature of many of the behaviours likely to be cited as unacceptable, meant that it might be an unintended consequence.
  • The Anti-Social Behaviour Policy (referred to in the report’s recommendations) might benefit from further amendments notwithstanding its review as part of the review of the process for issuing Community Protection Notices a year previously. The conclusion of the consultation process will determine whether the Committee wishes to revisit the Policy as part of its work plan.


Councillor Hayes and the Community Safety Service Manager confirmed that great care would be taken to ensure that the consultation was truly inclusive, meaningful and open ended.  A PSPO was not the only means available to the Council to address unacceptable behaviour. The Council invested heavily in engaging with individuals focusing on improving their life chances and encouraging them to access support services rather than enforcement of sanctions. Councillors, other individuals and organisations would of  course have the opportunity to respond to the consultation  in due course. Councillor Hayes and officers would be talking with Councillor Aziz about her concerns and would be very happy to talk to others as necessary.


The Committee’s overarching view was that while a consultation on the basis set out was welcome, there was a residual concern about the possible introduction, eventually, of a new PSPO. The Committee therefore resolved to pass recommendations of the following nature to the City Executive Board:



1)    That the Council ensures that the consultation on acceptable behaviours in the City Centre actively seeks out the views of:


a)    Rough sleepers and related third sector support organisations, as well as other vulnerable groups and their associated bodies.


b)   Thames Valley Police.


c)    People who are likely to oppose the introduction of PSPOs.


2)    That the consultation on acceptable behaviours presents information objectively, and that questions are phrased in an open way, so as not to unduly influence the responses.

3)    That any subsequent City Executive Board report concerning PSPOs discusses alternative approaches to managing unacceptable behaviours, and the benefits and limitations of such approaches.


4)    That consideration is given to how the Council could better protect people sleeping rough from violence and abuse. 



The Committee indicated its wish to review the outcome of the consultation, when it is brought forward for City Executive Board consideration. The conclusion of this process will determine whether the Committee wishes to revisit the Council’s Anti-social Behaviour Policy as part of its work plan.


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