A Tory council leader who claimed rough sleepers had made a “commercial life choice” to prey on residents and tourists in Windsor has sidestepped calls to apologise.
Simon Dudley called for action to be taken against “aggressive begging and intimidation” ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding on May 19 at Windsor Castle.
And in a letter to police, he complained about “aggressive begging and intimidation”, and “bags and detritus” on the streets.
His comments attracted criticism from homeless charities, and Prime Minister Theresa May said she disagreed with his assessment.
But Dudley, who is currently in the US, declined to comment when asked if he regretted his statements.
Instead, he said that the local authority had a homelessness action plan, adding: “We await a response from the PCC on the concerns we have raised.”
Asked about the remarks during a visit to a hospital in nearby Camberley, May said: “I don’t agree with the comments that the leader of the council has made.
Murphy James, of Windsor Homeless Project, said Dudley’s comments were “sickening”.
He said: “It’s absolutely abhorrent that anybody has got these views in this day and age, especially a lead councillor of the borough.
“I went out on Christmas Day and there were 12 people laid out on Windsor High Street. They were not there by choice.”
“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.”
HuffPost spoke to people sleeping rough, including those literally in the shadow of Windsor Castle, about the problems they’ve had with council offers of accommodation and how being told they’re a security risk makes them feel.
Martin Jeremy Allen said: “I was made redundant from a job, I worked at BMW and I couldn’t find anything suitable that matched £1,700.
“I ended up running up arrears of about £2,500.
“I didn’t choose to be homeless, it just happens.”
One homeless woman in Windsor, who gave only her first name, Tracy, said: “The homelessness has not just arose in the last couple of months, homelessness has been going on for years, even in this town.
“But it’s only because of this royal wedding that there’s been all of a sudden this uproar over the homelessness and the disgrace on the Windsor streets.
“If everyone were to do their job properly there would not be this problem – it’s taken for a wedding for them to pull their finger out their bum to sort things out.”
Asked what she would say to Dudley, Tracy told the Press Association: “Come spend some time out on the streets with us, get to know us people individually and then tell me where you find these aggressive beggars and these voluntary homeless people.
“He doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.”