Windsor council drops plans to fine rough sleepers after outcry

Patrick Greenfield
A homeless person sleeps rough in Windsor. The council had planned to issue £100 penalties for breaches of public space protection orders. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Windsor council has withdrawn plans to fine rough sleepers £100 as part of a new “homelessness support strategy” after a public outcry against the measures.

The council’s leader, Simon Dudley, has requested that the proposals, reported by the Guardian on Sunday, be withdrawn after feedback from the public and councillors. Dudley’s assertion that rough sleepers should be cleared from the town centre for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sparked the controversy last month.

The borough also said future strategies on homelessness would not try to address rough sleeping and anti-social behaviour at the same time, describing them as separate objectives.

Wednesday’s announcement follows a council report that advocated the introduction of a public space protection order (PSPO) to ban aggressive or proactive begging, requests for money, leaving bedding and belongings in a public area and urination or defecation in town centres in the area.

Breaches of the PSPO would have lead to a £100 fixed penalty notice, but offenders could have faced a summary conviction and a £1,000 fine if they failed to pay. The measures would have been enforced by community wardens equipped with stab-proof vests and body cameras.

These plans have now been withdrawn, and the council has requested two separate papers on rough sleeping and anti-social behaviour for consideration in March.

A statement said: “The leader of the council, following feedback from stakeholders, the public and elected members, in discussion with lead members has requested the paper titled Rough Sleepers Support and Anti-social Behaviour Strategy is withdrawn from February cabinet to allow further work.

“The further work will result in two papers to March cabinet to ensure there is no conflation of the council’s separate objectives of supporting rough sleepers and refreshing the approach to tackling anti-social behaviour.”

Speaking on Sunday, Jesse Grey, the Conservative cabinet member for environmental services, said: “We have accommodation for everyone who is sleeping rough. It’s the ones who don’t want our help that we have to do something about.”

But they were strongly criticised by charities including Liberty, Crisis and Shelter.

Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of Crisis, said: “It is wrong to fine or criminalise homeless people simply because they are homeless. If there’s genuine antisocial activity, then councils should intervene, but people deserve better than to be treated as criminals simply because they have nowhere to live.”