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Windsor council withdraws proposal to fine homeless

Windsor council has withdrawn its plans to fine rough sleepers, following backlash from the public.

In a report, ‘Rough sleeping support and anti-social behaviour strategy,’ Windsor and Maidenhead Council suggested the introduction of a fixed penalty notice of £100 for persistent rough sleepers and begging, reduced to £50 for early payment.

Failure to pay would mean the person in question could face prosecution in a magistrates court or police involvement, which could mean a custodial penalty.

Across the borough on 1 November 2017 11 rough sleepers were counted - up from eight in a 2016 count, and currently there are 14 individuals who are known to regularly sleep on the streets.

The document states that this increase is despite increased support mechanisms offered by the council.

In the report, it states that no person shall “aggressively or proactively beg,” which includes begging near a cash machine, and prohibits verbal or non-verbal requests for money, including the placing of hats, containers or written requests.

The proposals came following the council leader’s written request for the police to crack down on “aggressive begging” ahead of the royal wedding.

Over 1,000 people signed a petition condemning his comments, and leader Cllr Simon Dudley faced a vote of no confidence, which he survived.

The proposed scheme has received criticism by those who fear it criminalises vulnerable members of society.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis UK, said: “It is wrong to fine or criminalise homeless people simply because they are homeless.”

In a statement issued yesterday, the council said: “The leader of the council, following feedback from stakeholders, the public and elected members, in discussion with lead members has requested the paper titled ‘rough sleepers support and anti-social behaviour strategy’ is withdrawn from February cabinet to allow further work.

“The further work will result in two papers to March cabinet to ensure there is no conflation of the council’s separate objectives of supporting rough sleepers and refreshing the approach to tackling anti-social behaviour.”

Top image: Yui Mok PA Wire

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