Berkshire

Royal wedding: Windsor council leader in begging crackdown call

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Media caption"Medieval": Find out what Windsor makes of the royal wedding row

A council leader has called for action to tackle "aggressive begging" in Windsor, ahead of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Simon Dudley, of the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, has called on the Berkshire police and crime commissioner (PCC) to address the issue "urgently".

Mr Dudley said street begging created a "hostile atmosphere" for both residents and tourists.

Windsor Homeless Project described the comments as "abhorrent".

In December Mr Dudley tweeted about an "epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy" in the town.

He said he would be asking Thames Valley Police and the PCC to "focus on dealing with this before the royal wedding".

'Unfavourable light'

He went on to describe how "vagrancy and begging" meant people were "marching tourists to cash points to withdraw cash" - although Thames Valley Police said it had received no such reports.

Mr Dudley also said some people were earning hundreds of pounds a week targeting tourists and residents in Windsor.

In his letter on Tuesday to PCC Anthony Stansfeld, the Conservative councillor said: "The whole situation... presents a beautiful town in a sadly unfavourable light.

He wrote: "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."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The couple will marry at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle in May

He said many beggars were not homeless and called for "immediate action, as this is a significant security concern, especially given the national importance of Windsor".

Windsor Homeless Project manager Murphy James said it was "sickening" that Mr Dudley had cited the royal wedding as a reason for his concerns.

He said: "If somebody is sleeping out on the street they are not there by choice; they are there because something has gone wrong.

"I went out on Christmas Day and there were 12 people laid out on Windsor High Street - they were not there by choice."

Mr Stansfeld said the council had not raised the issue with him on his last visit there but said supporting the homeless was a "priority".

He also said protecting the public was "of the utmost importance... 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".

Windsor has been described as a "very special place" for Prince Harry and Miss Markle, who have spent time there together since meeting in July 2016.

They will marry at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on 19 May.

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