Agenda item

Agenda item

City Centre Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO)


Background Information

The Scrutiny Committee has asked for this item to be included on the agenda for pre decision scrutiny.



Why is it on the agenda?

The City Executive Board on 11 June 2015 will be asked to agree the report.  This is an opportunity for the Scrutiny Committee to provide comments to the City Executive Board.


Who has been invited to comment?

Councillor Sinclair and Richard Adams will attend to answer the Committee’s questions.






Cllr Sinclair, Executive Board Member for Crime, Community Safety and Licensing and the Service Manager, Environmental Protection presented the report. She said that this was the second Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in Oxford and that it was aimed at tackling long-standing problems of anti-social behaviour within the city centre. She said that it was the Council’s intention to be fair and balanced in its enforcement of the PSPO.


The Committee heard the following addresses:


Cllr Thomas: urged the Council to reconsider its position on busking as he believed that the consultation responses suggested there was no enthusiasm for such a measure. He suggested that the problems associated with busking would be better managed through use of a Community Protection Notice. He said that the Code of Conduct for Busking and Street Entertaining needed revision and referred the Committee to examples of documents produced in York.  Copies of the personal material circulated by Cllr Thomas at the meeting, but which do not form part of the Council report, are appended to these minutes.


Cllr Brandt: urged the Council to take a sensitive and collaborative approach with local organisations and communities to deal with anti-social behaviour issues rather than to introduce the PSPO.


Giles Payne of Crisis Skylight, Oxford - welcomed the Council’s decision to revise its position on rough sleeping and asked that they reconsider their position on begging.  He said that it would be difficult to differentiate between instances of rough sleeping and begging and questioned the practicality of imposing Fixed Penalty Notices.


The Committee asked a number of questions around: what powers PSPOs replace, alternative powers available to the City Council, the wording and interpretation of the PSPO, how evidence is gathered, the enforcement process, and how representative the results of the consultation were.


In discussion the following points were made:


Control of dogs and street drinking:  The Committee noted that there was a legal requirement on the Council to replace the existing city wide public space restrictions on dog control and street drinking. The inclusion of these issues in the PSPO was a replacement of existing provisions.


Begging: The Committee considered a proposal that ‘persistent begging’ should be removed from the PSPO.  A majority of members did not support this proposed change.  The Committee also discussed whether ‘persistent begging’ should be changed to ‘persistent and aggressive begging’.  A majority of members did not support this proposed change.


Enforcement: The Committee expressed concerns that enforcement was potentially quite a subjective matter and asked what guidance or rules were given to officers.  The Service Manager, Environmental Protection explained that the Council followed a 3 stage approach to enforcement:

1.    Early intervention & discussion

2.    Issue of a Fixed Penalty Notice

3.    Prosecution

He said that the preferred approach was always to take early action and speak to the individuals about the problem.  This was found to be the most effective approach when dealing with anti-social behaviour.  He offered to provide the Committee with a report detailing the breakdown between early intervention and enforcement actions.  He informed the Committee that a corporate enforcement policy was being developed and would go to the City Executive Board later in the year.  This would in effect be a code of conduct for enforcing officers.  The Committee suggested that guidance should be available to officers and be in the public domain before any enforcement action is taken.


Busking / Code of Conduct: The Committee considered a proposal to remove ‘breaches of the Code of Conduct for Busking and Street Entertaining in Oxford’ from the behaviours included in the PSPO.  A majority of members did not support this proposed change. The Committee supported having a code of conduct for buskers and the principle that buskers should busk for a maximum of 60 minutes in any one place, as this enables more people to have the opportunity to busk in prime locations. The Committee felt that the City Council’s Code of Conduct for Busking and Street Entertaining in Oxford could be strengthened and should be reviewed in light of examples of policies in other cities such as Liverpool and York, as well as input from groups such as the Musicians Union. 


Sleeping in toilets: The Committee noted concerns about ‘Sleeping in toilets’ as this is primarily a safeguarding issue.  The Committee suggested that officers should look at whether including this behaviour in the city centre PSPO would have a differential impact on equalities, for example by affecting women more than men.


The Scrutiny Committee AGREED to make the following recommendations to the City Executive Board:


1.    that an Enforcement Code of Conduct for Officers should be produced and that this code should be in place and in the public domain before any enforcement actions are taken under the City Centre Public Spaces Protection Order;


2.    that the existing ‘Code of Conduct for Busking and Street Entertaining in Oxford’ should be reviewed and revised to provide a more comprehensive “Guide to Busking and Street Entertaining in Oxford”.  This guide should be accessible to buskers, street entertainers, businesses and the public, and draw on examples of good practice from other cities such as Liverpool and York, as well as input from stakeholders such as the Musicians Union;


3.    that officers are instructed to look at the differential equalities impact of the proposal to include the behaviour of sleeping in public toilets within the City Centre Public Spaces Protection Order, having regard to safeguarding concerns for vulnerable adults.

Supporting documents: