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Rising number of councils issuing fines for rough sleeping

The number of councils that have obtained the power to issue £100 fines for rough sleeping, begging and “loitering” in England and Wales has increased despite Home Office guidance not to target the homeless.

Local authorities have been accused of trying to “airbrush their streets” and “ban homelessness” after analysis by the Guardian found at least 60 councils with public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) forbidding people from putting up tents,seeking charity and other behaviour associated with rough sleeping, up from 54 last year. Those who violate the orders are liable to a £100 fine which, if left unpaid, can result in a summary conviction and a £1,000 penalty.

Councils using the orders, both Conservative and Labour-run, have insisted that PSPOs are not targeted at the homeless but are instead used to crack down on antisocial behaviour. Last month, Manchester council became the latest local authority to start a consultation on a PSPO that would make “aggressive or intimidating begging” and “using a tent in a manner likely to create a health and safety risk” liable to a £100 spot fine.

The increase in PSPO use comes after the Guardian revealed that growing numbers of vulnerable homeless people are being fined, given criminal convictions and even imprisoned for begging and rough sleeping in May last year, often with no access to legal aid to challenge the prosecutions.

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