From the blog

The Difficulties with Street Begging

My recent comments on street begging have caused something of a controversy. Since headlines and soundbites fail to tell the whole story, advice I thought I would take this opportunity to explain my views.

Let’s initially destroy a myth; this is not an Ipswich problem. In fact, our County Town has done an enormous amount to tackle the issue and suffers far less than most places of its size.

The media spoke to one street beggar who earned £150 a day and claimed that, if he wasn’t begging, he would be stealing to compensate. No justification, I’m afraid. Assuming he works 5 days a week and takes 4 weeks holiday a year, that’s a wage of £36,000, with no tax or national insurance, from a ‘job’ that is actually a criminal offence! I want our young people to learn the value of work, both to themselves and to others, rather than be incentivised into tax-free earnings through a false choice between that and another criminal activity.

The effort that we and our partners take to enforce against this crime is not acknowledged by the Courts who send a weak message by issuing paltry fines to offenders who freely admit they can earn the amount back within the first hour of the next day’s trade. I’m afraid that the Courts need to toughen up.

All of this is in danger of making me seem uncharitable and unaccepting of the fact that some street beggars have genuinely fallen upon hard times and need our help. This is where some have misunderstood my message completely.

It goes on to say that those who deserve our help should get it; and that there are wonderful charities that exist with expertise in offering it. The problem is that, too often, the money that we believe is helping such folk we are putting into the hat or tin can of someone who needs it far less (because they already earn £150 a day!). The only way to ensure that our money goes to those who really deserve it is to donate it through one of these charities.

If we cut off the supply chain and the Courts toughened up against the real offenders, street begging would all but disappear and the charities would earn more money. Therefore, the people that most need our help could get it.

It’s tough, but find me a better solution.