03:49PM, Thursday 11 January 2018
The leader of the Royal Borough has stood his ground on his controversial calls to tackle ‘anti-social begging’ in Windsor.
But Cllr Simon Dudley has admitted linking the issue to the Royal Wedding was a mistake.
He found himself in the middle of a media storm after calling on Thames Valley Police’s (TVP) Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Anthony Stansfeld, to act on ‘aggressive begging and intimidation in Windsor’ ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in May.
Speaking to the Advertiser and Express this week, he said he intended to ‘draw a distinction’ between people who are genuinely homeless and those ‘commercially’ begging.
“I tried to make that clear and the responsibility rests with me if I failed to communicate that,” he said.
“In Windsor, within the tragedy of homelessness, there are people who are professionally begging.
“[The letter] was to encourage Thames Valley Police to address the issue of anti-social behaviour and begging.”
He said the council is aware of three people in Windsor genuinely sleeping rough, at odds with the 13 to 15 people estimated by Murphy James of the Windsor Homeless Project.
In his initial stream of tweets about the issue, Cllr Dudley said he had heard reports of tourists being marched to cashpoints. Although Thames Valley Police said it had received no such reports, he sticks by this claim and stated that incidents had been reported to him.
Cllr Dudley admits that his initial tweet which ended #royalwedding was a mistake.
“I do not think I should have done that; it was not the right signpost,” he said. “The point about the Royal Wedding was that it is like anything that increases the commercial attractiveness of Windsor to people to try and exploit it through anti-social begging.
“Let me be crystal clear – this is not about clearing the streets in advance of the Royal Wedding.”
In response to claims that the letter was sent without the knowledge of other councillors, he said it was run past Cllr Phillip Bicknell and was an issue he had discussed with various councillors in the past. He said: “I work every day of the year; I don’t even know what an out-of-office assistant is. As council leader if I am on holiday and getting emails I am going to react to them – that may be a product of my professional background.”
Going forward, Cllr Dudley said he is committed to helping homeless people in the borough. He said: “I want the borough to have enough emergency accommodation and we are in a fortunate position to be able to afford that.
He added that additional beds at John West House in Maidenhead, which currently sleeps eight, and a new shelter in Windsor will be looked into. He added he would be visiting accommodation in Southall, which Mr James described as being ‘rat infested’.
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