A statement from councillor Linda Smith, deputy leader and cabinet member for leisure and housing:
The installation of bars on the bench in Woodstock Road was not done by Oxford City Council, our companies or contractors.
Installation and alteration to street furniture is carried out by the highways and engineering team at ODS, our wholly owned direct services company. ODS uses a Servitor jobbing system for service requisitions and staff time and there is no record of this work being requested or any time spent on it. ODS also has no record of any purchase order or invoice for materials to carry out the installation of bars to the bench in this bus shelter.
The council’s benches are black or a specific shade of dark blue. The bars that were installed do not match these colours or the council’s corporate colours – this is not a shade of blue we would use.
We were unaware that bars had been installed on this bench until we were tagged in a tweet on Monday morning. We immediately instructed ODS to remove the bars and this work was completed on Tuesday morning.
Arm rests on benches can be part of inclusive design as they provide extra help for older people and people with mobility issues, making it easier for them to sit and stand up. However this bench already had three arm rests and we felt that the installation of these bars – whoever did this – was an act of hostile architecture.
We believe that nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford and we are committed to helping people get the shelter and the support they need to leave the streets behind. The key to this is engaging with people, building their trust and supporting them to come inside. Hostile architecture erodes rather than builds trust and it plays no part in our approach.
We provide more than 200 beds for people experiencing rough sleeping, including a new winter shelter available to anyone. Last week we opened a new assessment hub and shelter in Floyds Row. Floyds Row was co-designed by people experiencing homelessness and will provide the shelter and support people need to get off the streets more quickly and rebuild their lives.
We’re planning to spend £7.4 million on preventing and reducing homelessness in 2020/21 and are transforming the way we deliver services. We’re also working collaboratively with NHS partners and Oxfordshire’s five other councils to develop a countywide approach to tackling homelessness that will focus on prevention, early intervention and moving people on from rough sleeping.