With growing levels of homelessness, many municipalities in western jurisdictions are increasing social control of public displays of poverty through criminalisation, marginalisation and banishment. This has recently been apparent in England with the introduction of public spaces protection orders. Based on notions of localism, these grant local government significantly enhanced powers to regulate public space. This article uses the English example to provide a critical, empirically informed, exploration of how populist neo-liberal rationalisations about the street poor are finding increasing favour among local authorities. It charts how in a period of austerity, with municipalities struggling to fulfil welfare obligations to the homeless and other poor, banishment provides a cheaper solution to citizens’ concerns about visible displays of poverty in public space. The article investigates the troubling ways in which municipalities endorse a neo-liberal authoritarian approach to public consultations to claim legitimacy for introducing measures that target vulnerable minorities. It also examines how opponents, with limited success, have challenged such measures and the predominant neo-liberal–populist narrative associated with them.
- Public Space
- Public Consultations