A Kettering councillor has voiced his concerns over proposals which could see people fined for begging in the town centre.
Cllr Mick Scrimshaw says the introduction of a proposed new Public Spaces Protection Order would be ‘heavy-handed’.
And while he admits that begging in the town is a problem, he feels that the move would be unfair on those with genuine support.
But Kettering Council says two or three individuals have been begging for some time, causing annoyance to shoppers, and that the details of the protection order have not yet been finalised.
Cllr Scrimshaw said: “If these homeless people get picked up they will likely get fined, which we all know they wouldn’t be able to pay.
“That could lead to them going to prison, which is incredibly harsh for anybody let alone those who need help.
“Begging is on the rise but those who are aggressive and less polite are in the minority, it’s only a few individuals.
“People don’t always know the back story behind people who are begging, it’s not always their fault.”
The proposals, if agreed, could see people moved on just for sitting on the floor preparing to beg.
Cllr Scrimshaw feels it will be difficult for council wardens to decide whether an offence will be committed before it even takes place.
He added: “This will have a big impact on how homeless people are dealt with.
“If it’s the police, they are experienced enough to use their discretion, but council wardens will be more stringent and follow a rule book.
“That concerns me as it will be incredibly harsh to punish someone for their situation.”
With the St Jude’s homeless drop-in centre in Kettering set to close today (Friday, September 18), the problems facing homeless people aren’t set to ease.
And Cllr Scrimshaw believes this should be taken into consideration before a decision is made over the proposed order, which could come into force by November.
He added: “People can’t be concerned about the problems when their biggest facility is taken away, it’s unfair.
“Many of those struggling have separate issues and need support, and added punishment is unneccessary.
“The council needs have a long discussion about this, but I’m worried that councillors won’t get a say.”
Deputy leader of Kettering Council Cllr Lloyd Bunday feels that until the council decides what will be in the new orders, all comments are just speculation.
He said: “The Public Spaces Protection Order does not give any police officer the power of arrest for a defined offence.
“It does enable a police officer, PCSO or council warden to advise the person to desist from a certain activity, and if the activity persists, then that person may be liable for a fixed penalty fine.
“Since the council has not yet defined what will be in the PSPO it is a little academic to guess what the outcome of specific issues will be.”
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