Beggars need to be cleared by police from the streets of Windsor before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding because their “detritus” is presenting the picturesque English town in a poor light, the local council’s leader claims.
Harry and his American fiancèe will tie the knot at Windsor Castle west of London in May with thousands of visitors expected to visit the town of Windsor to celebrate the occasion.
Simon Dudley, leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead council, wrote on Twitter there had been an “epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy” in the town and said he wanted police “to focus on dealing with this before the #RoyalWedding”.
“This is creating a concerning and hostile atmosphere for our residents and the seven million tourists who come to Windsor each year,” he wrote in a letter to the local Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfield.
“It is becoming increasingly concerning to see the quantities of bags and detritus that those begging are accumulating and leaving on our pavements, at times unattended, thus presenting a security risk.”
Mr Dudley also sent a letter this week to Thames Valley police and the crime commissioner suggesting that the UK’s 1824 Vagrancy Act and the 2014 Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act should be used against rough sleepers and people begging on the streets.
Mr Dudley said the council had invested heavily in support services to help those in need with shelters and emergency accommodation for rough sleepers, added there was evidence that many of those begging were not in fact homeless.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May publicly challenged Mr Dudley’s call.
“I don’t agree with the comments that the leader of the council has made,” Ms May told reporters Friday morning (AEDT)
“I think it is important that councils work hard to ensure that they are providing accommodation for those people who are homeless, and where there are issues of people who are aggressively begging on the streets then it’s important that councils work with the police to deal with that aggressive begging,” she said.
The Windsor Homelessness Project’s manager Murphy James told the BBC it was “sickening” Dudley had cited the royal wedding as a reason for concern.
“It’s absolutely abhorrent that anybody has got these views in this day and age, especially a lead councillor of the borough,” he said.
“If somebody is sleeping out on the street, they are not there by choice, they are there because something has gone wrong.”