The UK’s Coalition government of 2014 introduced a brand new type of policy instrument known as the “Public Space Protection Order” or PSPO. Essentially, a PSPO allows a local council to define an area in which a specific action is prohibited, in the same way an ASBO restricts the behaviour of a specific person. In the last week there have been two stories in the news of where these orders have been used to attempt to provide a solution to a problem.
In the first story, the case of a homeless man arrested for begging for just ten pence has had his case thrown out of court after a judge said it was not “in the interests of justice”. In begging for 10p, Ashley Hackett risked a £100 fine which the police obviously thought he would be able to pay.
Salford Council have issued a PSPO making it an offense to use “foul and abusive” language in and around the Quays. Human Rights group Liberty have (humorously) challenged the order on a few grounds, both in how it can be technically enforced as well as whether it is actually a breach of freedom of expression.
The use of the PSPO in each instance has been questioned, but there is a significant difference between the two applications. Salford brought in the order to curb anti-social behaviour which was making the life of residents miserable. The threat of a fine could potentially cause people to exercise a far greater vocabulary than they might otherwise.
In Ashley Hackett’s case, fining him 1000 times the amount he was begging for will not stop him being homeless. It simply means that he has to be homeless where his trying to feed himself is not seen as socially unacceptable.
I think this is indicative of how we can sometimes be drawn so far in to something that we forget why we’re doing it, so we implement a work around rather than a solution.
It’s like living somewhere with a leaking pipe. You notice the damp patch so investigate. You find the leaking pipe and put a bucket underneath it. In doing so, you solve the issue of the damp patch (once it dries) but not the flow of water still coming out of that cracked pipe. The better solution would be to turn off the water, drain the system, remove the cracked pipe and replace it with a length which is structurally sound.
(I just tried a clever analogy and came up with 80 words for “papering over the cracks” or “sweeping it under the carpet”. Well done, Michael. Although, come to think of it, I do have more experience of leaking pipes than holes in walls and, oddly, soft flooring!)
This has been my biggest frustration over the last few months with a multitude of things that are going on, not just in the news but also in areas of my own life such as my health, work and other more personal things. I get frustrated when I can’t work something out and when it feels like a real issue is being avoided, one that could be resolved properly but for lack of interest because another solution is easier in the short term.
Unfortunately for me, out of sight simply isn’t out of mind at the moment.
I’ve thrown away
So many things that could’ve been much more
And I just pray
My problems go away if they’re ignored
But that’s not the way it works
No that’s not the way it works
When I go down
I go down hard
And I take everything I’ve learned
And teach myself some disregard
When I go down
It hurts to hit the bottom
And of the things that got me there
I think, if only I had fought them
If and when I can
Clear myself of this clouded mind
I’ll watch myself settle down
Into a place where
Peace can search me out and find
That I’m so ready to be found
When I Go Down by Reliant K
(If you want to read something amusing about a leak and not so clever (in hindsight) solution, check out A Mystery Man’s Car Adventures and Happy Birthday to my Brother by Stevo at All In…)