PM slaps down Windsor council boss over call to clear homeless for royal wedding


The Prime Minister has said she disagrees with a Tory council leader who called on police to clear rough sleepers from Windsor before the royal wedding.

Simon Dudley said beggars could present the town in a "sadly unfavourable light" when Prince Harry marries American actress Meghan Markle in May.

He tweeted that some rough sleepers had made a "commercial life choice praying on residents and tourists".

In a letter to police, he complained about "aggressive begging and intimidation", and "bags and detritus" on the streets.

Asked about the remarks during a visit to a hospital in nearby Camberley, Theresa May said: "I don't agree with the comments that the leader of the council has made.

"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 Dudley's comments have been described as "sickening" by Murphy James, of Windsor Homeless Project, who said: "It's absolutely abhorrent that anybody has got these views in this day and age, especially a lead councillor of the borough."

He added: "I went out on Christmas Day and there were 12 people laid out on Windsor High Street. They were not there by choice."

Scores of TV crews from around the world are expected to join thousands of wellwishers in Windsor for the royal wedding on May 19.

Mr Dudley, leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, tweeted that there was "an epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy" in the town and demanded police "focus on dealing with this before the #RoyalWedding".

Windsor Police tweeted in reply: "We need to protect the most vulnerable in society by working together but each agency must understand its own unique responsibilities.

"Housing is the responsibility of the council but it is better that agencies work together so people don't become homeless.

"We deal with reports of begging proportionately but we have not had reports of anyone being marched to cashpoints to take out money."

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry in Windsor on May 19 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Mr Dudley wrote a letter to Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley Police, Anthony Stansfeld, dated January 2, calling on officers to take action.

Mr Stansfeld said he was "somewhat surprised" that the letter was released publicly before being "sent directly to me".

"I myself attended a Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council in October and these issues were not raised," he added.

"I will of course provide Councillor Dudley with a full response addressing his concerns once I have received the letter and investigated further the issues he has raised."