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Prime Minister Theresa May Weighs In On Removing Homeless From Windsor

Prince Harry and fiancee Meghan Markle arrive at an AIDS Day charity event on Dec. 1. Their spring wedding plans have sparked controversy over the homeless in Windsor.
Christopher Furlong
Getty Images
Prince Harry and fiancee Meghan Markle arrive at an AIDS Day charity event on Dec. 1. Their spring wedding plans have sparked controversy over the homeless in Windsor.

Planning a wedding in fairy tales is bibbidi-bobbidi-boo easy but in today's England, where Prince Harry plans to marry American former-actress-because-she's soon-to-become-a-duchess, Meghan Markle, the to-do list is a lot more complicated. And for some officials, it should include moving the homeless out of sight and getting rid of street beggars.

But a call by the leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to remove vagrants and their detritus from the streets surrounding Windsor Castle — where the wedding will take place — has been met with outrage from residents and political leaders within the highest echelons of government, including Prime Minister Theresa May.

Simon Dudley made the remarks over Twitter, writing that police should focus on "dealing with" the "epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy" before the #RoyalWedding in May.

They have since stirred up a controversy in London and other parts of the country over the root causes of homelessness and the most effective methods of addressing the problem.

Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday weighed in on Dudley's comments making it clear she disagrees with his views.

"I don't agree with the comments that the leader of the council has made," she toldThe Guardian.

"I think it is important that councils work hard to ensure that they are providing accommodation for those people who are homeless, and where there are issues of people who are aggressively begging on the streets then it's important that councils work with the police to deal with that aggressive begging," she added.

In a letter to the Thames Valley police and crime commissioner, Dudley wrote: "The whole situation also presents a beautiful town in a sadly unfavourable light."

He also argued that eliminating beggars would be imperative for the safety of tourists expected to descend on the city for the royal nuptials. "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 presenting a security risk," he added.

But, in a story for the BBC, the police commissioner, Anthony Stansfield, said the situation is complicated because many of the people living on the streets of Windsor were "very vulnerable and have mental health issues."

Charity workers for the homeless had a similar, if not more extreme, response to Dudley's suggestion that homelessness be treated as a criminal matter.

James Murphy, of the Windsor Homeless Project, conveyed his outrage to Express, "It's absolutely abhorrent that anybody has got these views in this day and age, especially a lead councillor of the borough."

Prince Harry and Markle plan to be married on May 19.

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Corrected: January 4, 2018 at 10:00 PM MST
A previous version of this story referred to Meghan Markle as a princess-to-be. In fact, she will not be known as Princess Meghan. It is more likely that the queen will make Prince Harry a duke and Markle will become a duchess.
Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.