ThinkProgress

Conservative politician wants homeless people removed from the streets before Royal Wedding

FILE PICTURE - WINDSOR, BERKSHIRE, UNITED KINGDOM - 2011/10/01: Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle. (Photo by Pawel Libera/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A council leader in Britain has demanded police in the historic town of Windsor use legal powers to help clear the town of homeless people in time for the Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May.

Simon Dudley is the Conservative Party council leader for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, 20 miles west of London, which includes Windsor Castle, Eton College, and the Ascot Racecourse. During a skiing vacation in Wyoming over Christmas, Dudley was the focus of a minor Twitter spat when he posted that Windsor was experiencing an “epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy”. He added that homeless people were “marching tourists to cash points to withdraw cash” although police then responded that they had not had any reports of such.

Dudley then followed up on the issue this Tuesday with an open letter to the county’s police and crime commissioner, requesting that police give the issue “immediate attention.”

“It is becoming increasingly concerning to see the quantities of bags and detritus that those begging are accumulating and leaving on our pavements, at times unattended, thus preventing a security risk,” Dudley wrote. “Obviously, the level of tourist interest is set to multiply with the Royal Wedding in May 2018, and there are increased concerns from our residents about their safety. The whole situation also presents a beautiful town in a sadly unfavorable light.”

The council leader thanked police for protecting the community and mentioned a number of policies undertaken to help combat homelessness in Windsor. Dudley, however, maintained that the majority of those sleeping rough in the town were on the streets as a “voluntary choice” who were creating a “concerning and hostile atmosphere for our residents and the seven million tourists who come to Windsor each year.”

Tens of thousands are expected to descend upon Windsor on May 19 to see Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle at St George’s chapel at Windsor Castle, one of the dozen Royal Residences scattered throughout the U.K., including Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Since 2010, successive Conservative governments in the U.K. have implemented harsh austerity measures, aiming to eliminate the deficit by 2020. This has meant a significant reduction in local police across the country, including Thames Valley Police, who are being forced to save nearly $30 million over the next three years. Austerity cuts have also been blamed for a 134 percent increase in homelessness across the country since the Conservative Party came to power.

Of course, the Royal Wedding isn’t the first high society event where the homeless have suffered. When Ivanka Trump visited the Indian city of Hyderabad, police cleared out hundreds of homeless persons. In 2015, ahead of a papal visit to the city, NYPD Commissioner Bill Braton oversaw an NYPD effort to clear out homelessness.