THE leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has faced a backlash after he called for rough-sleepers and beggars to be removed from the town’s streets before the royal wedding in May.
The Conservative leader of the council, Simon Dudley, said that the borough’s homeless were presenting a “beautiful town in a sadly unfavourable light”.
The chief executive of the Methodist homelessness charity West London Mission, Jon Kuhrt, said that “his comments were disgraceful”, and “ignorant and silly.”
In a letter to Thames Valley Police, Mr Dudley demanded that they clear “vagrants” from the streets, and complained of “aggressive begging and intimidation”.
He wrote that “a large number of adults that are begging in Windsor are not in fact homeless, and if they are homeless they are choosing to reject all support services. . . In the case of homelessness amongst this group, it is therefore a voluntary choice.”
It also emerged that Mr Dudley has a position on the board of the Housing and Communities Agency, a government body that presides over an initiative to end homelessness. Mr Kuhrt said that this “uncovers the really harsh, uncaring side of some perspectives” on homelessness.
He said: “Rough-sleeping is the visible indicator of poverty and inequality that has been going up and up in the last seven years. . . It is the uncomfortable sign of the housing crisis in this country.”
The Prime Minister publicly disagreed with Mr Dudley’s remarks last week: “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.”
Mr Kuhrt said that “churches are fantastic at helping” with homelessness: more than 3000 people were sleeping in night shelters in churches this winter.