Calderdale Councillors clashed over the issue of begging and criminality when full Calderdale Council met at Halifax Town Hall.
The issue was raised by Coun Chris Pearson (Con, Greetland and Stainland) who said the West Yorkshire Police website reminded people that begging was a crime and should be reported to the police.
Much was being done to confront the very tragic circumstances of homelessness and rough sleeping alongside the criminal activity of begging, he said.
But he wanted to know why the council’s website page of homelessness and begging did not mention begging was a crime and should be reported.
Coun Daniel Sutherland (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said in his eyes it was a crime that people were homeless and forced to do such things. The council had undertaken outreach work with homeless people and extended that to people who were begging on the streets, some of whom had homes but struggled to find work.
“I personally don’t think the best approach is to treat it is as a criminal issue,” he said.
“We need to understand who they are, what their circumstances are and what we can do to help them turn their lives around,” he said.
That was not to say some were over-agressive in their begging and that could be a problem.
But fundamentally the root cause had to be tackled. “I am sure there is not a single person out there, sat in the cold, sat in the rain, who wants to be doing that,” said Coun Sutherland.
Coun Pearson said the police message was not mentioned on the council website and that should be rectified.
Given there had been an incresae in begging and anti-social behaviour throughout Halifax town centre could Calderdale not follow the example of other councils and issue Public Space Protection Orders.
“Does the council not care about harassment of shoppers, money from drugs going to criminal gangs or even the damage done to local businesses and this town’s reputation?” he said.
Coun Sutherland said the council encouraged Calderdale communities to donate to charities offering help rather than give money directly.
Begging, he said, was still a symptom of a problem not the root cause.