The original plans faced backlash from campaigners
An East London council has scrapped plans to fine punters who want to buy sexual services after it faced backlash from campaigners who warned it would “put sex workers in danger”.
Newham Council announced last Wednesday (April 27) that it would not be progressing with its Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) that was supposed to clamp down on “kerb crawlers” in Romford Road which goes through six wards – Stratford, Forest Gate South, Green Street East, Green Street West, Little Ilford and Manor Park.
Cllr Neil Wilson, cabinet member for adults and social care, said: “While we will be soon publishing the council’s PSPO consultation results, it will not be progressed with because we want to develop a sex work strategy that is holistic and offers long-term sustainable solutions to reduce the harmful impacts of sex working for sex workers as well as local residents.”
The new sex work strategy will be developed over the next 10 months and will include a formal consultation. A final version of the sex work strategy will be published in spring 2024. He explained: “Our public health approach to developing a new sex work strategy will be shaped in partnership with those that have lived experiences and experts.
“The needs assessment will help us understand the complexities, challenges and harms facing street and off-street sex work as well as the impact on our communities.”
Labour councillors wanted to introduce the PSPO to crack down on those who target and exploit vulnerable women and planned to hand out fines ranging from £100 to £1,000 to anyone caught buying services.
A council spokesperson told the LDRS in November 2022 that it was not targeting the women themselves however a campaigner said the plans would only stigmatise sex workers and put them more at risk of violence.
Niki Adams from the English Collective of Prostitutes – a group which campaigns to decriminalise sex work – previously told the LDRS: “It’s particularly worrying considering it’s a measure giving significant powers to the police. How it works in practice… we don’t even know if this particular PSPO will be policed by a private company – we have no idea.”
Cllr Nate Higgins, from the Green Party and represents Stratford Olympic Park, said he welcomes the U-turn because he said it would have put sex workers at risk. He said: “This U-turn from the council is a positive step, and will be a huge relief to sex workers in Newham.
“I’ve been calling for the prioritisation of women’s safety since the proposals were published. The proposed PSPO would have put sex workers at risk and would have made it much harder to provide the support needed.”
Cllr Higgins went on: “By building trust with sex workers, the council will be in a much better position to help get sex workers off the street, supporting communities impacted by the negative impacts of on-street sex work.”