Suella Braverman tent restrictions condemned by Suffolk councillors

Two prominent councillors have condemned Home Secretary Suella Braverman's plans to restrict the use of tents by rough sleepers.

Mrs Braverman proposed penalties for rough sleepers who have been warned by police about causing a nuisance.

West Suffolk Council cabinet member for housing, Labour's Richard O'Driscoll, said fines were "fundamentally" wrong.

Suffolk Conservative county councillor Sam Murray said it showed a "real lack of understanding".

On Sunday, writing on X, formally known as Twitter, Mrs Braverman said there were "options for people who don't want to be sleeping rough".

The proposals were not outlined in the King's Speech, setting out the government's priorities for the year ahead, but Mrs Braverman wants it included in the new Criminal Justice Bill.

"Fining them... is fundamentally the wrong approach," said Mr O'Driscoll.

"We are in a continuing cost-of-living crisis which is already seeing us helping more people and families who are struggling with housing costs, and are both threatened with, and experiencing, homelessness."

He continued that the council recognised some people may not be ready for help, as they continued to struggle with complex needs, such as mental health conditions or substance addiction.

"Yes, we'd like to see [fewer] tents - but only if it is because the people who have been rough sleeping in them are getting the proper support that they need," added Mr O'Driscoll, who is also a ward councillor based in Bury St Edmunds.

"Fining them for sleeping in a tent is not the answer."

West Suffolk Council's administration issued a statement opposing the proposals, and claimed its rough sleeper service had helped drive down the number of people on the streets from 36 counted in 2018 - to four as of 1 November.

Tents at St Margaret's Church grounds in Ipswich
Rough sleepers in Ipswich have previously occupied tents in the grounds of St Margaret's Church

Ms Murray, who is also an Ipswich borough councillor, said the plans showed a "real lack of understanding".

"I don't think anyone who had a true choice would choose that option," she said.

"Most of us in a normal income are one failed pay cheque away from losing everything anyway, especially in this current climate."

She called for extra funding from the government to help people living on the streets and urged those who needed help to contact local charities.

A Downing Street spokesperson has said: "No-one should be criminalised for having nowhere to live and we are repealing the outdated Vagrancy Act.

"We want to go as far as possible to ensure that those who are vulnerable can get the support they need and obviously at the same time cracking down on anti-social, intimidating or indeed criminal behaviour."

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