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In response to ‘Council proposes £1,000 fines for homeless sleeping in tents‘.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have withdrawn their controversial policy to fine homeless people £1000 for erecting tents in public place, claiming that it shouldn’t have been included in the consultation on instituting a public spaces protection order in the city centre.

The decision, at first glance, looks like a victory for people power and common sense. Examine it a little closer though and something more troubling comes into view.

While homeless people may no longer be at risk of being criminalized by the council, they will be further disadvantaged by an initial cut of £316,000 rising to £1million by 2020 in funding for support services.

Funding for drug and alcohol addiction services will also be cut by £751,000 over the same period.

Stoke-on-Trent has been identified as one of the UK cities likely to be hit hardest by the introduction of universal credit. Low incomes and a proliferation of insecure work will put many families at risk of losing their homes, just at the moment when the safety bet of support is being unpicked in the name of austerity.

There is a real possibility that by announcing an outrageous policy then stepping back from implementing it ostensibly having listened to the concerns of local people, the council are trying to sneak through a simply nasty one they have every intention of carrying through.

This is a cynical piece of political game playing that will further entrench social problems that cannot be hidden by the glitter Stoke being in the running to be UK City of Culture in 2021.

Urgent questions need to be asked about the priorities of a council that sees support services for the most vulnerable people in the community as a legitimate target for budget cuts.

Adam Colclough

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