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Wycombe District Council’s Leader says no fines for rough sleeping homeless

| July 22, 2015

At the Cabinet meeting with took place at 7.00pm on Monday 20th July 2015 Wycombe District Council’s Leader, Cllr Katrina Wood, took the opportunity to clarify the Council’s position on fixed penalty notices and public spaces protection orders.

While reviewing the minutes of the previous Cabinet meeting, Cllr Wood said : ‘As you all know, a decision that we made at the Cabinet meeting in June [2015] about fixed penalty notices under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 has provoked a lot of interest, discussion and publicity.

Unfortunately, some of that discussion has been based on information that is not correct and so I just wanted to take this opportunity to clarify what the council’s position currently is.

As the Cabinet, we gave delegated authority to enable fixed penalty notices to be issued, as the first step towards introducing a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), should we choose to go down that route – and that is a decision that we haven’t made yet. Like many other councils up and down the country, we are just looking into this at the moment. Public Spaces Protection Orders are still relatively new and there will be lessons to learn as councils around the country begin to roll them out.

A public space protection order could be another way of helping us to tackle anti-social behaviour and keep our town centres safe and attractive places for residents and visitors to enjoy.

What the decision we made in June was definitely not, was a decision to fine rough sleepers. To be absolutely clear, this council has no intention of fining anyone for being homeless or for simply rough sleeping. We have statutory duties regarding homelessness, have a published homeless strategy which aims to assist homeless persons and households and to prevent homelessness occurring.

Rough sleeping is the most extreme form of homelessness, which is fully deserving of the attention and support that we provide along with our partner agencies. We want to prevent a need to rough sleep and to help those that find themselves on the street. We have a stated aim to operate a ‘no second night out’ for rough sleepers in the district although in practice this is very difficult to achieve. This is despite the huge efforts made in partnership with various agencies across the district including Wycombe Homeless Connection (WHC) to provide as much help and assistance as possible to those who find themselves rough sleeping, for whatever reason. This help includes the drop-in at Wycombe Homeless Connection, an emergency bed for rough sleepers when available through the outreach team and help into accommodation through the Wycombe Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme that the council grant funds. Last year, the outreach service managed to find accommodation for 70% of all referred rough sleepers across Bucks. While we would like to be able to support everyone, sadly there were people who chose not to accept the help and support that was offered.

If anyone has any concerns about a rough sleeper we would strongly encourage them to contact the national street link service on 0300 500 0914 or email to our local outreach team [email protected] so that we can continue our successes in resolving their housing need.

I do hope that gives some reassurance and clarity around our position on what is a very emotive issue.

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