The homeless will be helped rather than targeted if Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) are brought into force, say Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC).
By introducing measures that could see fines enforced for antisocial behaviour associated with begging, TWBC hope to encourage discussion on how to help the problem.
PSPOs would give the council and police powers, as a last resort, to hand out fines of up to £100 to tackle dog fouling and street drinking as well as ‘professional begging’.
The Cabinet Member for Communities Cllr Lynne Weatherley, is looking to set the record straight after the planned policy prompted 6,000 people to sign a petition called ‘Tell TWBC No to Fines on Begging’.
She said: “People who are rough sleeping already have a million problems and we don’t want to give them more problems so we want to engage with them.
“It is out for consultation [until January 7] and we want the public to come back and tell us what they think.”
When asked under what circumstances a PSPO fine would be given, she said: “We have found there were less than five occasions last year when an individual would have been required by the PSPO to move on.
“It could be there were complaints they were sitting by an ATM, causing an obstruction or if begging is piling up. We might go and ask them to move on but if they refuse we might consider what other enforcement we could use.
“If it was someone who was quite clearly refusing the help available and was just continuing to sit there and beg it may be an occasion where we could consider a fine.
“This is rare and it is not our intention to fine people, but the tools we have a few and far between to take action if there is a problem.”
Childrensalon, the Tunbridge Wells-based company who started the petition, has now taken it down after staff met with the council.
To view the consultation online before January 7 visit consult.tunbridgewells.gov.uk and search for Public Spaces Protection Order