The Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead has written to the Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley calling for the use of The Vagrancy Act 1824 or the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 in tackling anti-social behaviour including aggressive begging and intimidation ahead of the Royal Wedding in May this year.
In his letter to the PCC (Anthony Stansfeld), Cllr Simon Dudley said he was disappointed with the Commander of Thames Valley Police’s view that the local authority should deal with the issue solely through a Public Space Protection Order.
He said: “I have reviewed the Home Office advice on the applicability of PSPOs issued on the 24th December 2017, and it is clear to me that this is not the appropriate option given the circumstances.
“Even if we did secure a PSPO for Windsor, this would take considerable time, extending well beyond the Royal Wedding – and there would be no police resources to enforce the PSPO.”
Cllr Dudley said the police should use the powers already available under the 1824 Act or the 2014 Act.
The letter, which can be viewed here, insisted that the Royal Borough had invested heavily in the support services for vulnerable residents. It also said that in the borough “we believe homelessness is completely unacceptable in a caring, compassionate community such as ours”.
However, Windsor & Maidenhead’s Leader added that its work on a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol had provided the council with evidence that a large number of adults who are begging in Windsor were not in fact homeless, and if they were homeless they were choosing to reject all support services to beg on the streets of Windsor. “In the case of homelessness among this group, it is therefore a voluntary choice.”
The letter added that it was increasingly concerning “to see the quantities of bags and detritus that those begging were accumulating and leaving on [the town’s] pavements”.
Cllr Dudley said: “Obviously, the level of tourist interest is set to multiply with the Royal Wedding [of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle] in May 2018, and there are increased concerns from our residents about their safety. The whole situation also presents a beautiful town in a sadly unfavourable light. As Leader of the Royal Borough this situation is totally unacceptable to me and my fellow councillors.”
The letter also expressed concerns more widely about funding for community safety within Windsor, and payment for an extensive CCTV renewal programme.
Cllr Dudley’s comments have been sharply criticised, however.
Murphy James of the Windsor Homelessness Project told The Guardian that there had been an increase in both visible and hidden homelessness in the town over the past year.
The 1824 Vagrancy Act was “the most inappropriate way of dealing with the problem. It means treating people like they’re committing a crime, whereas there is nothing villainous in what they are doing,” he said.