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Beggars in Barking could be fraudsters, says council leader defending new £100 on-the-spot fines

PUBLISHED: 16:56 21 March 2018 | UPDATED: 09:37 22 March 2018

Left to right: Cllr Hardial Singh Rai, Cllr Saima Ashraf, Cllr Laila Butt, Cllr Darren Rodwell. Picture: LBBD

Left to right: Cllr Hardial Singh Rai, Cllr Saima Ashraf, Cllr Laila Butt, Cllr Darren Rodwell. Picture: LBBD

LBBD

Council leader Darren Rodwell has suggested beggars in Barking town centre might not genuinely be in need while defending a new order meaning those asking for money could be fined.

Andrew Boff speaking at the Oasis Banqueting Hall in Barking. Picture: Vickie Flores Andrew Boff speaking at the Oasis Banqueting Hall in Barking. Picture: Vickie Flores

“We recognise that as well as supporting the most vulnerable, we also have a duty to tackle those who act fraudulently,” he said.

“This includes those who operate as part of organised networks of beggars on our streets and public transport across London.

“The PSPO provides us with extra powers to take action to tackle this behaviour so that people feel safer in our town centre.”

The new policy of issuing £100 on-the-spot fines, which was introduced on Monday, has been criticised by London Assembly member Andrew Boff.

Emma Simmonds from Hope 4 Barking and Dagenham, the borough's only homeless shelter. Picture: Emma Simmonds Emma Simmonds from Hope 4 Barking and Dagenham, the borough's only homeless shelter. Picture: Emma Simmonds

“The Labour Party in Barking has shown how little it cares for the poor and the people who have fallen on hard times,” said the Barking resident.

“Barking Conservatives believe fining poor people is not the right way to solve the problems at Barking station.”

The Longbridge ward council candidate said the Conservatives would tackle problems in Barking town centre by connecting beggars to agencies such as Thames Reach and St Mungo’s, fund more police officers with the increase in council tax and increase the cleaning regime at Barking station to improve its appearance.

The new policy, which was informed by just over 300 responses to a consultation, has also been criticised by Emma Simmonds, a volunteer who helps run homeless shelter Hope 4 Barking and Dagenham.

She says she personally does not think people should be begging in Barking town centre, particularly if they are receiving charity support.

However handing out £100 on-the-spot fines is not a good solution to the problem, she said.

Beggars are highly unlikely to be able to pay back the money, meaning they will then be summoned to court.

But since most beggars do not have homes there will be nowhere to issue the summons to, meaning the order will be complicated to enforce, she said.

“They are trying to come up with very quick fixes for something that can’t be fixed quickly,” she said.

Cllr Rodwell claimed that rising homelessness in Barking and Dagenham, and across London, are because of the government’s failure to provide “affordable, secure housing at the same time as cutting support”.

“As a council we provide lots of help to those who are homeless, and we work hard to try to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place,” he added.

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