In December 2015 I visited Romford to go busking and was nearly arrested before I had played a single note. I captured the distressing encounter I had with an overzealous police officer in video footage that was widely shared on social media and subject to a formal complaint to the police professional standards agency.
I was therefore not surprised when I discovered that Havering Borough Council have introduced controversial new proposals for a far-ranging Public Space Protection Order which would make busking in Romford outside of restricted and arbitrary designated zones a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1000. The PSPO would also create a blanket ban on all amplification, regardless of volume or content in a move that Human Rights organisation Liberty have pointed out could prevent residents from using a microphone or loudspeaker as part of a peaceful protest and infringe their rights under Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Liberty have also criticised Havering Borough Council's proposals to include 'begging or seeking of alms' in the draft PSPO on the grounds that this could see some of the most vulnerable members of our society facing fines of up to £1000 for begging or 'seeking alms' (A phrase which is left vague and undefined in the proposal). At a time of rising homelessness and destitution it is wrong for a local authority to be targeting some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people with draconian new powers.
The Keep Streets Live Campaign has started a petition asking Havering Borough Council to rethink its proposal to include busking in the draft PSPO proposal and also to remove the clause that targets people for 'begging or seeking alms'. The police and the local authority have a wide range of existing powers that can be used to deal with busking that causes a genuine nuisance or forms of begging that are aggressive and cause genuine harm to others. This PSPO is far too open-ended and open to misuse. Please take a moment to sign and share our petition and also to complete the online consultation questionnaire by politely letting Havering Borough Council know that these proposals raise serious concerns which need to be addressed.
Thank you for your support,
Founding director of the Keep Streets Live Campaign