A council leader has been branded “abhorrent” after calling on police to clear rough sleepers from Windsor before the royal wedding.
Conservative councillor Simon Dudley said beggars could present the town in a “sadly unfavourable light” when Prince Harry marries American actress Meghan Markle in May.
He tweeted that some rough sleepers had made a “commercial life choice praying on residents and tourists”.
Council leader Simon Dudley (PA)
In a letter to police he complained about “aggressive begging and intimidation” and “bags and detritus” on the streets.
His comments were criticised by a local homeless charity manager, who described them as “sickening”.
Murphy James, of Windsor Homeless Project, said: “It’s absolutely abhorrent that anybody has got these views in this day and age, especially a lead councillor of the borough.
“If somebody is sleeping out on the street they are not there by choice, they are there because something has gone wrong.”
He added: “I went out on Christmas Day and there were 12 people laid out on Windsor High Street, they were not there by choice.”
Mr James described it as “sickening” that Mr Dudley cited the royal wedding as a reason for his comments.
Thousands of wellwishers are expected to descend on the town for the event in Windsor Castle on May 19.
Mr Dudley, leader of Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, tweeted that there is “an epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy” in the town and demanded police “focus on dealing with this before the #RoyalWedding”.
Windsor Police tweeted in reply: “We need to protect the most vulnerable in society by working together but each agency must understand its own unique responsibilities.
“Housing is the responsibility of the council but it is better that agencies work together so people don’t become homeless.
“We deal with reports of begging proportionately but we have not had reports of anyone being marched to cashpoints to take out money.”
Mr Dudley wrote a letter to police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley Police Anthony Stansfeld dated January 2, calling on officers to take action.
He said police should use their powers under the 1824 Vagrancy Act and the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to “protect residents and tourists”.
He said that “bags and detritus” are a “significant security concern, especially given the national importance of Windsor”.
“Obviously, the level of tourist interest is set to multiply with the Royal Wedding in May 2018, and there are increased concerns from our residents about their safety,” he wrote.
“The whole situation also presents a beautiful town in a sadly unfavourable light.”
Mr Stansfeld said he was “somewhat surprised” that the letter was released publicly before being “sent directly to me”.
“I myself attended a Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council in October and these issues were not raised,” he added.
“I will of course provide Cllr Dudley with a full response addressing his concerns once I have received the letter and investigated further the issues he has raised.”
He added: “Protecting the public is of the utmost importance to both myself and Thames Valley Police and the force work day in and day out to keep people safe from harm and make the Thames Valley a safe place to live, work and visit.”