The punt tout ban 'has not worked' say Cambridge Liberal Democrats
The council has been discussing new ways to tackle the tout issue.
Fresh proposals to tackle nuisance punt tour touts in Cambridge city centre are being proposed alongside Cambridge City Council’s High Court injunction that seeks to stop punt operators working from council land.
It is proposed that the area of the city where the punt tout ban is in effect could be increased, and a part-time officer is to be hired to bolster enforcement.
At present a PSPO makes it a criminal offence for punt tour touts to operate in certain areas of Cambridge, with anyone in breach of the order likely to face a £75 fixed penalty notice. The council’s six enforcement officers, who also have other duties aside from the PSPO, have reportedly caught a number of punt tour touts breaching the order.
In the past year 60 fixed penalty notices have been issued of which 54 were paid, two withdrawn and two are ongoing.
There were two successful prosecutions for repeat offences and four prosecutions are pending.
However, the report says that some punt tour touts are choosing to ignore the PSPO, to pay the fixed penalty notices when they are caught flouting the rules and are willing to risk a criminal record.
Liberal Democrat group leader Tim Bick said: “It’s disappointing that the approach the council adopted last year hasn’t worked at all. Although a number of people have been penalised, it’s clear that the nuisance the public experience hasn’t gone away - and in fact it’s been spread to a wider area of the city.
“As I said last year, the approach the council has taken is only as good as the enforcement of it, and now we see that this is true. In fact the council has meantime been piling on other new things for its tiny enforcement team to deal with - begging, street drinking, and A Boards - in addition to their pre-existing role with such things as litter and fly tipping right across the whole city.
“Though it’s welcome that they are now going to add another half-time officer, it’s doubtful that this is going to make enough of a difference for a seven-day a week issue, unless other priorities suffer. In my opinion the only optimism on the horizon is the prospect of gaining an injunction on the illegal punt operators, which it is believed is the origin of most of the nuisance touting.”
Cllr Lewis Herbert, leader of the council, said: “We introduced the order last year to tackle the repeated interference by punt tour touts in the lives of residents and tourists, wandering peacefully through the city centre.
“The order has had some success with a number of offenders fined or prosecuted but the level of complaints is evidence of continued harassment of the public by touts working for unauthorised punt operators, who continue to ignore the harm their operations cause to life in the city.
“In response, the council has already decided that a court injunction is needed to tackle the heart of the problem at its source – that is the occupation without permission of Garrett Hostel Lane and other council land.
“The injunction and further enforcement plans are essential given the evidence in the report of continued anti-social behaviour by punt touts and the escalating use of the public open spaces in the city.
“Our approach is proactive and positive and these proposals, together with our application to the High Court for an injunction to stop the unauthorised use of our land, will tackle a blight on our beautiful city.”