Vicar raps ‘flawed’ cen­tre beg­ging ban

Rochdale Observer - - FRONT PAGE - Damon.wilkin­son@men­media.co.uk @Da­monWilkin­son6

beg­ging could be warned, moved on or hit with an on-the-spot fine un­der the ban which was CON­TRO­VER­SIAL ap­proved last month as beg­ging ban, set to part of a con­tro­ver­sial be in­tro­duced in crack­down on anti-so­cial Rochdale, is based on an be­hav­iour in Rochdale ‘ur­ban myth’ the town’s town cen­tre. vicar has said. Street drink­ing, skate­board­ing, The Rev Mark Cole­man unau­tho­rised has de­scribed the pol­icy char­ity col­lec­tors - known as ‘flawed’ and called as ‘chug­gers’ - play­ing on coun­cil chiefs loud mu­sic, loudly revving to change it car en­gines, ‘anti-so­cial be­fore it park­ing’ and loi­ter­ing are comes into also set to be out­lawed force un­der the Pub­lic Space some­time Pro­tec­tion Or­der. Coun­cil in the chiefs in­sist re­search near shows most of the peo­ple fu­ture. beg­ging in the town cen­tre Any­one are ‘not home­less’, but ac­knowl­edged it is a ‘sen­si­tive caught is­sue’.

ABut Mr Cole­man said the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who beg ‘are poor and lead­ing pre­car­i­ous lives’ and fears in the most ex­treme cases could ul­ti­mately lead to those un­able to pay their fines put be­hind bars.

He added: “Whilst I am grate­ful to all who are work­ing to re­gen­er­ate and smarten the town cen­tre, I be­lieve this pol­icy is flawed.

“The think­ing be­hind this or­der seems to be that beg­ging may not be gen­uine and may be ‘ag­gres­sive’ and is there­fore to be classed as ‘anti-so­cial be­hav­iour’.

“Of course there may be beg­gars who are se­cretly wealthy - I have not met any yet - but we can­not base our laws on ur­ban myths. It is a fact that most peo­ple who beg are poor and lead­ing pre­car­i­ous lives.

“Will we have the right to con­sider our­selves a civilised so­ci­ety if we send to jail some­one who is gen­uinely poor and guilty only of beg­ging for food?

“Sadly this or­der makes this more pos­si­ble and I think the time has come to make changes to it.”

Mark Wid­dup, di­rec­tor of neigh­bour­hoods at Rochdale coun­cil, said: “We work with a num­ber of home­less­ness char­i­ties and Greater Manch­ester Po­lice in Rochdale town cen­tre and the ev­i­dence we have is that the ma­jor­ity of beg­gars in Rochdale have ac­com­mo­da­tion or have been of­fered sup­port and re­fused it.

“We are aware that this is a sen­si­tive is­sue for our res­i­dents and peo­ple are un­der­stand­ably con­cerned about the plight of peo­ple on the streets.

“We al­ready do a lot of work with home­less­ness char­i­ties across the bor­ough and this will be stepped up fur­ther once the PSPO is im­ple­mented.

“Each per­son who is on the street will be ap­proached by a team of of­fi­cers from the coun­cil, GMP and part­ner or­gan­i­sa­tions and of­fered an in­ten­sive sup­port and in­ter­ven­tion pack­age to help them build a life away from the streets.

“The coun­cil is also ac­tively sup­port­ing the Big Change cam­paign, which en­cour­ages peo­ple to do­nate money on­line at bigchang­e­rochdale.co.uk, rather than giv­ing di­rectly to beg­gars. All money do­nated is shared be­tween lo­cal home­less­ness char­i­ties.

“Our of­fi­cers are highly trained and de­ci­sions on whether to hand out fixed penalty no­tices will be made on a case by case ba­sis. Their pri­or­ity at all times, par­tic­u­larly when deal­ing with more vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of our com­mu­nity, will be to of­fer sup­port and ad­vice.”

As the Observer has re­ported plans for a swear­ing ban and to bar un­der-18s from the town cen­tre be­tween 11pm and 6am which were orig­i­nally part of the PSPO, were dropped last month.

The changes came af­ter com­plaints the swear­ing ban would breach hu­man rights. GMP also raised con­cerns.

●●Rochdale’s vicar the Rev­erend Mark Cole­man has called on coun­cil chiefs to change the beg­ging ban

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