A POOLE opposition councillor says he is “appalled” that a controversial ban against begging and rough sleeping was decided “behind closed doors”.

A Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) has now come into force across the town centre, as well as Poole Quay, Poole Park, Sterte and Tatnam.

As reported in the Daily Echo yesterday, certain activities are now prohibited, including begging for food, money and/or drink and sleeping in doorways and car parks. Anyone caught breaking the order could face a fine of up to £1,000.

Councillor Mike Brooke has spoken out against the “unacceptable approach to tackling the homeless problem”, which he believes risks criminalising homeless people.

“The council and the government should be doing far more to tackle the causes of the problem rather than persecuting the more vulnerable,” he said.

“I am also appalled at the way in which this has been handled. Having checked all the relevant committee agendas, including cabinet and council, I can confirm there has been no scrutiny, and delegating such an issue to an officer is unacceptable.

“It’s an abrogation of responsibility by the portfolio holder. The proposal should have been debated at committee and then full council before any decision made. What is even more unacceptable is the ‘behind closed doors’ way in which the decision has been made.

“Having carried out a public consultation, the outcomes should be in the public domain. To refuse to publish the results is an abuse of power. What is there to hide?”

The Daily Echo is still awaiting a response from the Borough of Poole about the results of the consultation held last September and if they will be published.

Cllr Philip Eades described the new PSPO as a “terrible overreaction” which “displays a complete lack of care or compassion by the Borough of Poole”.

“It’s another awful decision designed to dovetail with Bournemouth’s similar lack of care for the most disadvantaged in our society,” he added.

And Cllr Vikki Slade said: "It is true that there are a tiny number of professional beggars who target the area but this policy targets the most vulnerable and that’s not right. This decision has not been scrutinised and we will be challenging it with senior officers and the leadership."

Dorset’s resident bishop, the Rt Revd Karen Gorham, who spoke out previously against the order, said she was “deeply disappointed that [Poole council] seem to have tried to slip this decision out beyond public notice”.

“I know that many local people and charities highlighted the vulnerability of the increasing number of homeless in the town in responding to the consultation. This decision makes homeless people even more vulnerable by a limit to the number of hours rough sleepers can bed down for the night,” she said.

News of the ban even caught the attention of rapper and broadcaster Professor Green.

Commenting on the Daily Echo story on Instagram, he wrote: "This is getting ridiculous. No solution, just punishment."