BEGGARS could be banned from asking for money near cash machines in Newport city centre in a shakeup of public control orders.

The proposal is one of several changes to the existing public spaces protection order (PSPO) that are being considered by Newport City Council.

“Aggressive” begging in the city centre was already prohibited within restricted areas in the PSPO currently under review.

To make it easier for the council and Gwent Police to enforce, officers have proposed a ban on begging within 10 metres of a cash or payment machine in an anti-social manner which could be seen as “harassing” or “alarming” to the public.

A public consultation, which attracted 61 responses, saw 70 per cent vote in favour of a blanket ban on begging.

But an outright ban is not seen as the “proportionate response” by the police and the council, with human rights group Liberty describing such legislation as “cruel and unfair”.

Representatives from the council, Gwent Police and the business community discussed the plans at a meeting of the overview and scrutiny management committee on Thursday.

Newport city centre police inspector John Davies said that the existing order to control begging was “largely unenforceable” due to a slim chance of officers witnessing anti-social begging.

The meeting also heard that officers would have the power to arrest beggars but only if they refuse to move on.

Newport Independents councillor Chris Evans said: “When you move these vulnerable people from the cash point, where are they going to go? It’s pointless. We’re talking about people, kids in some instances.”

Kevin Ward, manager of the Newport Now Business Improvement District, added: “We don’t believe a blanket ban is the right way forward.

“The PSPO shouldn’t be used as a blunt instrument against the most vulnerable in our society.”

Mr Ward also argued the existing PSPO has had a negative impact on the city centre, with anti-social behaviour issues “worsening” since its adoption in 2015.

Conservative councillor Matthew Evans described the existing order as “unenforceable” and the revised order as “nonsensical”.

The leader of the opposition raised “more sensible” examples of enforcement in other local authorities, with some considering outright bans on begging in public spaces.

He asked: “Would [those rules] not be simpler and easier to enforce than the one in front of us?”

Conservative councillor Charles Ferris said: “Aggressive begging has got out of control and it’s putting people off going to the city centre.”

The council’s head of legal, Gareth Price, reinforced the PSPO’s purpose of tackling anti-social behaviour, rather than the act of begging.

“It’s a compromise that doesn’t exclude begging from the city centre altogether,” said Mr Price,

“It protects people when they’re drawing cash out of cash machines.

“It’s balancing the rights of the individual: the people on the street begging and those that want to go about their business.”

Other proposals in the new three-year PSPO include restrictions on groups causing anti-social behaviour and the use of intoxicating or psychoactive substances in the city centre.

A final decision on the PSPO will be made by full council at a future date.