Aggressive Wakefield beggars 'taking the mick' and 'cash off the elderly', councillor says

Genuine homeless people should not be confused with aggressive city centre beggars who are "taking the mick", a Wakefield councillor said.

Tuesday, 3rd March 2020, 4:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, 3rd March 2020, 4:58 pm

Michael Graham, who represents the district's Wakefield West ward, said he welcomed enforcement action being taken against those who were needlessly asking strangers for cash.

The authorities have cracked down on so-called nuisance beggars in Wakefield in recent months and the issue is regularly raised by residents and councillors.

Councillor Graham made his comments as the local authority published a new homeless strategy for the next three years, which includes increasing the amount of cash being devoted to it.

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Police, shoppers and the council have all expressed concerns about aggressive begging in Wakefield city centre.

The number of people becoming homeless since 2018 has risen sharply across the district, while there are more people being put up in temporary accommodation now than at any time in the last two years.

Speaking at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Coun Graham said: "I think the council sometimes receives criticism over how much they do to tackle and prevent homelessness.

"It's clear from this report the vast amount of work that goes into it, as well as working with the third sector. Homelessness is increasing.

"But I think we have to address the fact some people on the streets of Wakefield aren't homeless.

The issue was discussed at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

"There are people out there taking the mick and they're taking money off the older generation when they won't actually need it.

"I know the police have made some arrests in recent months and I absolutely welcome that.

"But let's not get that mixed up with the work we're doing with those who genuinely need help and getting them the homes and support they need."

Last year, the council considered granting police powers to issue on-the-spot £100 fines to anyone caught begging in Wakefield city centre, or in Pontefract and Castleford town centres.

But that plan was later shelved in favour of a more collaborative approach. However, a handful of individuals have been taken to court and given city centre bans in recent times.

The council is spending close to £6m on tackling genuine homelessness over the next year.

It's also announced plans to set up a Street Support website, which will offer information and help for vulnerable people and their families.

Local Democracy Reporting Service