Call to clear rough sleepers for royal wedding 'not referring to real homeless'


A Tory council leader who called on police to clear rough sleepers from Windsor before the royal wedding has claimed he was not referring to genuine homeless people.

Windsor and Maidenhead council leader Simon Dudley also said he regretted bringing up the marriage of Prince Harry to American actress Meghan Markle.

In a series of tweets last week, Mr Dudley said beggars could present the town in a "sadly unfavourable light" during the wedding and complained in a letter to police about "aggressive begging and intimidation" and "bags and detritus" on the streets.

He originally sidestepped calls to apologise despite attracting criticism from Prime Minister Theresa May and homeless charities, one of which described his comments as "sickening".

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But six days after he originally referred to "an epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy", Mr Dudley said he wanted to draw a distinction between the "abomination" of homelessness, and "commercial" begging.

He claimed beggars who are not homeless set up pitches in Windsor to run a "commercial enterprise" exploiting tourists.

The council leader told The Andrew Peach Show on BBC Radio Berkshire: "I would like to apologise if I was not clear enough in my communication that this was an issue about anti-social behaviour, and if that message failed to get across the responsibility for that is firmly with me.

Windsor council leader Simon Dudley
Windsor council leader Simon Dudley

"And look, I'm steadfast that the council will continue to provide comprehensive support for vulnerable residents or anyone who's visiting us."

Asked why he brought up the royal wedding, Mr Dudley said: "I wouldn't have done on reflection. I wouldn't have put a hashtag in a tweet that said Royal Wedding. I would not have done that. I think that allowed people to look at it in a certain way when it really wasn't about that.

"What it was about was not the wedding ,but the circumstances which bring about anti-social behaviour, i.e. the size of the opportunity to commercially (beg) is going to grow in Windsor.

"It wasn't the wedding, it was the fact that the situation is deteriorating, clearly, and in my view, and consulting with other colleagues as well, is something which is going to get worse given that there will be more people there.

"More people with more money means more people trying to earn money."