Town centre PSPO will just drive problems out to the suburbs

CROYDON COMMENTARY: The Conservative Mayor’s proposals for a new Public Space Protection Order in the town centre will just displace anti-social behaviour, while failing to help the targets of the on-the-spot fines, says RIA PATEL, pictured left, a Green Party councillor for Fairfield ward

Croydon Mayor Jason Perry recently released a public consultation on his plans to tackle anti-social behaviour with a Public Space Protection Order.

A PSPO places restrictions upon people and can result in a fixed penalty fine of £80, or prosecution.

The restrictions include:

    • being in possession of an open container of, or consuming alcohol; this does not include licensed premises; and
    • behaving in a manner, either as an individual or within a group of people, which is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

An expensive drink: if you get caught with an open can of lager in the street, police could soon issue you with an £80 on-the-spot fine

This is the Conservative Mayor’s plan to make people feel safe and welcome in the town centre: to make it feel safe and welcoming for older, white people. It fails to recognise the diversity of the town centre, and areas of Broad Green and South Croydon where the PSPO is proposed, and the implications of this when it comes to the police.

It’s also ironic because if you can afford to drink in a pub, it’s encouraged in British culture!

It is disappointing that no Labour councillor has opposed this PSPO proposal, but then it was them who first implemented a version of the same restrictions in 2017.

In a town where public confidence in the police is already low, and a society where black people and young people are disproportionately affected by police violence, all that introducing the PSPO will do is make matters worse and further reduce public confidence in the police.

According to figures from 2017-2018, black people are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. The Met is also four times more likely to use forceful violence against black people, according to their own figures from 2017-2018.

Mayor Perry said, “There is no room for anti-social behaviour in Croydon and I am pleased we can help our high streets thrive by supporting the police to deter this behaviour.”

Anti-social behaviour does need to be tackled, and I empathise with residents who have raised concerns about this and recognise the need for action. But the police won’t “deter this behaviour”. Instead, the PSPO will lead to social cleansing of areas, pushing people who need support out of the town centre, like those who are homeless, or those who have substance and alcohol misuse problems. Only putting a plaster on a gashing wound, it will result in the issues simply being transferred to Croydon’s suburbs, rather than tackling the root of them.

The previous PSPO was in place from 2017 to 2020, and it, too,  also threatened our public space. The council allowed it to expire and it was not renewed because of lack of use. Is there then a need to be spending extra time, resources and, ultimately, money on a false solution with no real positive impact?

Anti-social behaviour occurs for numerous physical, psychological and social reasons.

To tackle it, I propose we listen to community members and groups, working in partnership with social services and charities that understand community members’ needs at a deeper level because, of course, many of them are community members themselves.

We need to work with groups like the South Norwood Community Kitchen, which has put together a thorough counterproposal, written by Ian Hardy, a dry alcoholic.

This suggests we take an approach that aims to understand individuals and their current level of well-being better.

The proposals include:

  1. The establishment of a multi-agency group, bringing together health workers, drug and alcohol services, homelessness organisations, frontline workers and social services, not just police and local businesses, to pool knowledge, skills and resources and deliver joined-up interventions
  2. Improved access and referral pathways to drug and alcohol services
  3. A better understanding of addiction, alcoholism, brain injury, trauma, and associated mental and physical health amongst all stakeholders
  4. An analysis of current best practice and research on this issue

I would also add that more should be done by Croydon Council to understand why people who are homeless can refuse support, even when it’s rarely offered.

Homeless people I have spoken to, via Nishkam Swat and Nightwatch, say that this is often due to a previous history of failed support, and their wish to not be institutionalised.

The current system also relies heavily on those who need support going out of their way to actively engage in services. Croydon Council should be making things easier for people, not harder!

Not helping: Tory Mayor Jason Perry

Finally, there needs to be a housing-first approach implemented in Croydon.

Without housing those who need support, we cannot expect them to have the energy to engage in recovery and employment and alternative forms of socialisation.

Unfortunately, not only is the council’s PSPO proposal a very poorly written “consultation”, which offers very little space for residents’ thoughts on its implementation, it is also not the right approach.

It has been very poorly advertised and the consultation is not even included on the PSPO proposal’s webpage.

Regardless, I encourage you to fill out the public consultation, however bad it may be, because Mayor Perry needs to hear loud and clear that a PSPO is not the solution to a very large problem.

The consultation closes on September 15 (click here to access it and have your say); but keep an eye out for other announcements for potential areas where similar PSPOs could be rolled out – one such area may be New Addington.

Changing people’s behaviour takes time and effort, something that the Mayor does not appear to be willing to put in.

  • Ria Patel is a Green Party councillor for Fairfield ward, which covers much of the town centre area in the proposed PSPO. She is the Green Party’s equality and diversity spokesperson

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4 Responses to Town centre PSPO will just drive problems out to the suburbs

  1. Ike Moodie says:

    May I wholeheartedly commend Ria Patel’s article arguing against the proposal for a PSPO in several areas of Croydon, even though I am a Labour Party member. I worked for 10 years as a probation officer in Croydon up until late 2020. The Ian Hardy proposal is much more likely to tackle the complex issues clustered around long-term homelessness. However this is not a quick fix and requires focussed effort from an array of stakeholders during an era where many agencies have challenges to their service delivery. If other Croydon councillers can work with Ria and Ian then Croydon has a chance to deal with this issue that has plagued many inner London boroughs for decades.

  2. Peter Underwood says:

    Completely agree with Ria’s article and Ike’s comment. The mayor’s PSPO has been tried before and failed. Why is he re-introducing a heartless and prejudiced policy that we know doesn’t work?

    This is just another case of the Mayor caring more about how things look than actually getting to grips with the real problems.

  3. Hazel swain says:

    I said this when the news first broke.. the outskirts of the town will get it again!

  4. Martin Rosen says:

    The article is thoughtful and (I believe) sensible. But what Ria is proposing is long-term, and it may or may not work.

    In the meantime, there is a problem especially to passers-by who feel (or may be actually) threatened by drunks and beggars which needs to be addressed. Protection of those passers-by may be secondary to protection of passers-by, but that doesn’t mean that the latter should be ignored.

    Perhaps the PSPO should be time-limited so that Ria and others can hold constructive discussions with the groups she mentions in the article, and gradually implement long-term solutions. If she starts to achieve her objectives, perhaps the PSPO can then be withdrawn.

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