A recently-published consultation document proposing regulation on rough sleeping and begging ‘could effectively criminalise’ homelessness, a parliamentary candidate for Carlisle has claimed.

The Green Party’s Gavin Hawkton said Cumberland Council’s consultation on a 'public space protection order' (PSPO), which aims to fight anti-social behaviour, ‘sparked concern’ with him regarding potential unfair and negative impacts it could have on ‘some of the most vulnerable and marginalised individuals in our community’.

News and Star: Gavin HawktonGavin Hawkton (Image: Supplied)

The document, which seeks to merge PSPOs created by the three former Cumberland authorities, proposes restrictions on a range of potentially anti-social behaviours.

These include where dogs can go, playing music in parks, riding electric scooters on pavements, and more, including what Mr Hawkton described as ‘the worrying section’, which reads: “No person shall camp or sleep overnight with or without a tent, where their behaviour, and the behaviour of their visitors or associates, causes, or attracts anti-social behaviour and/or has a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality.”

Mr Hawkton said it’s ‘incredibly sad’ for the Labour-run council to consider what he called ‘draconian policies’ towards the homeless.

“The enforcement of a so-called ‘zero-tolerance’ attitude does not deal with the problem of homelessness but simply removes it from view,” he added.

It is not made clear in the document how or when sleeping in public would be considered ‘anti-social’.

"No person shall beg where it causes or is likely to cause anti-social behaviour," the document adds.

Cumberland Council said that following LGR, the three separate public place protection orders of the former district council it absorbed have or are due to expire, hence this one being brought forward.

A council spokesperson said the PSPOs ‘provide local authorities with versatile tools to address the broad and growing impact of anti-social behaviour’.

The consultation includes a 'code of conduct' for buskers, street performers, and public speakers.

Cllr Denise Rollo (Harrington, Labour), executive member for sustainable, resilient, and connected places, said: “Through collaborative efforts we have examined all areas of concern, striking what we believe is the right balance.

News and Star: Cllr Denise RolloCllr Denise Rollo (Image: Cumberland Council)

“This is crucial in safeguarding our Cumberland community, ensuring its safety, and upholding the high standards of the council's environment and green spaces so that everyone can enjoy living, working and visiting the area.”

However, Mr Hawkton added: “I’m concerned here that if this policy is adopted, it risks giving the police far-reaching powers to apply consequences by subjecting unsheltered people into unnecessary contact with law enforcement.

“The criminalisation of homelessness would also no doubt put additional pressure on stretched police resources and further drain our council tax funds.”

The document is undergoing public consultation until April 26 this year.

To make your views known, visit the council’s page and fill out the form at https://consult.cumberland.gov.uk/communications-and-marketing/consultation-on-public-space-protection-order/.