Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Labour could get heavy-handed with new powers warn Lib Dems

Radical new powers which would allow Cambridge City Council to get tough on anti-social behaviour could be used in a far too heavy-handed way under Labour, fear the city’s Liberal Democrats.

They are worried that the Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) could be imposed “out of simple frustration” without consideration of how they will impact on the city as a whole or underlying problems such as drug addiction or homelessness.

Cambridge Liberal Democrat Leader, Cllr Tim Bick called for any decision on a PSPO to be taken by all the council members – but Labour rejected the move claiming it would hamper their implementation.

He said: “In the hands of a liberal-minded council all these new powers are sensible tools, but I have some concerns about the mindset with which Labour will respond in Cambridge. 

"They seem mesmerised by the PSPOs. They are very radical measures. They give council and police officers powers to order people around on a selective basis for behaviour which may not be actually illegal under the law of the land. They can create a grey area of jeopardy for all. The creation of a PSPO is subject to legal challenge, but once in place, the wide discretion of officers is not - yet people stand to get criminalised through it. 

"There is a clear danger PSPOs get thrown up out of simple frustration, without regard to their effectiveness, their impact on the rest of the city or on underlying problems they are dealing with like addiction and homelessness. Common sense indicates they are unlikely to be a panacea."

The PSPO is intended to deal with nuisance or anti-social behaviour problems in a particular area or public space such as drinking alcohol in a public place where it causes a serious nuisance or disturbance.  

The orders are intended to ensure people can enjoy public spaces without the problems of anti-social behaviour.

PSPOs and other tools in the new Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act were discussed last night (Monday, September 29) at Cambridge City Council’s Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee.

"PSPOs represent a very different regime for the city,” added Cllr Bick. “They should be a very last resort. There are other tools coming from the same Act which ought to make PSPOs less needed - and help with the serious problem of anti-social behaviour"

“For this reason I suggested any decision to implement a PSPO should be taken on a vote of the whole council, like other really major decisions for the city that require the reflection of all councillors. Unsurprisingly Labour swept this away, concerned that it would only hamper them.

“In a city which is equally concerned about the impact of anti-social behaviour and the type of measures used to deal with it, why wouldn't they want to explain and defend their propositions in front of all councillors?"