Report on PSPO’s

This is an excellent report into Public Space Protection Orders from the Manifesto Club.

A few extracts:

On one Council which has introduced a ban on parking outside a school the report says:

There is a similar issue with Havering Council’s ban on parents parking outside schools. No doubt the surge of the school run can create problems, but there can be other solutions – broadened stopping areas, for example, or more school buses. One way or another parents have to get their children to school. Yet the public authority, with supposedly public service interests at heart, instead creates a crime of parking outside a primary school.

And that is the point. In our dreams public sector bodies exist to promote and cultivate everything that is public. In reality they, increasingly, are waging war on the public. An excess of policing will eliminate all social life other than public actions carried on in a manner approved by and controlled by the authorities. Quite like North Korea really.

This good too:

In a similar vein, Croydon Council had planned a PSPO banning rowdy and/or inconsiderate behaviour. Politeness is very important but it cannot be enforced by a PSPO. Once civility becomes the subject of an order it becomes an formal, coerced demand, rather than the consequence of one’s relations to others in a community. Therefore, PSPOs enforcing politeness misplace the problem: it can only deepen the estrangement of youth when they are faced with nonsense criminal law which seems hostile to their very presence.

What all these orders reflect is not a strengthening of ‘local community spirit’ but the exact opposite. If matters of ordinary civility have to be enforced by ‘officers’ and fines this means that these people have simply given up on doing anything to contribute to building social cohesion.

As the report points out the legislation behind this gives local authorities the power to dream up new laws at will:

PSPOs take local authorities into unprecedented terrain, as law-making and policing authorities. Certain council officials now have the powers to write laws, creating new crimes, which are then policed by their own officers such as neighbourhood wardens, environmental or community safety wardens, and largely punished through on-the-spot fines without passing through a court of law.

In reality it is probably worse than North Korea.

Not just new laws – but new ‘policemen’. Under this legislation local authorities can delegate any member of staff as someone who can enforce the new laws and extract fines. They can even, according to the report, delegate these powers to private contractors. A previous Manifesto Club report suggested that contracting out the power to levy litter fines partly explained some of the more extreme cases of such fines being levied. This legislation appears to create a more or less infinite power for local authorities in cahoots with private contractors to profit from punishment.

The author of the report gives some examples of what constitutes a public consultation exercise for a local authority planning to impose a PSPO. There is quite a nice example of local authority manipulation of the truth in this one:

Ashfield’s consultation on its dog and alcohol restrictions received only nine responses: two from councillors, two from the police, one from the Kennel Club opposing sections of the order; and four responses from members of the public, two were neutral, one was for the order, and one against (these consultation responses were obtained by an FOI request by the Kennel Club). Hardly an overwhelming mandate in support, yet the report to the council summarised these results as follows: ‘The Council has undertaken full consultation with organisations and groups associated with dogs and dog walking as well as the general Public‌ There has been minimal opposition to the order (only 2 people formally objected), with the majority of the comments received, including from the Police and Crime Commissioner, and Nottinghamshire Police fully endorsing all aspects of the Order.’

As usual excellent work by the Manifesto Club who are worthy of our support.

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer