A former political adviser to Windsor council has defended the controversial proposal to invoke archaic vagrancy laws after an opposition candidate said it brought the borough into “disrepute”.
Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead council leader Simon Dudley caused outcry after he called on Thames Valley police to use the 1824 Vagrancy Act to clear homeless people from the streets last year.
However Andre Walker told talkRADIO’s Matthew Wright the use of the act was targeted against “aggressive begging” although he admitted it was “not the council’s finest hour”.
“The idea of enforcing the vagrancy act was not to be nasty or obnoxious it is to say look, if you are on the streets begging for money to buy heroin, that will kill you in the end and fundamentally you have lost control of your life and are no longer competent,” Mr Walker said.
“There is a difference between homelessness and begging and I think the aggressive begging was the issue we were trying to address.”
However Mr Walker’s claims were dismissed by Windsor Labour’s Margery Thorogood, who said the majority of homeless people in Windsor did not beg.
She added: “Punitive action does nothing to address the problem and make it better. We have to look at the root causes.”
However local resident campaigner Helen Price said there was no collaboration between charities and the council in the area.
Ms Price said: “We need a different attitude, one of collaboration. There doesn’t appear to be genuine collaboration.
“This just seems crazy but if everybody can work together it would be much better.”
Matthew was in Windsor to meet talkRADIO’s ‘Homeless Hero’ Tony Long, who is marching from Brentford to Bristol to raise awareness of mental health issues.
talkRADIO’s Kevin Sullivan will be spending a night camping with Tony to learn more about the difficulties faced by homeless people.
Tony said one issue facing people on the street was the lack of support given in the long-term, as many homeless shelters evict residents once they get a job.
Liberal Democrat candidate Amy Tisi said the party wanted to champion a “housing first strategy” wedded to providing targeted support.
She added: “These are real people with real issues it is not about giving someone a home and expecting it to be the end of the story. People come to homelessness for all sorts of reasons.”
Candidates from the Conservative party, Green party and UKIP were invited to the discussion but were unable to put forward a spokesperson.