Cllr Nickie Aiken yesterday chaired a roundtable meeting of local stakeholders including councillors, Council officials, the Metropolitan Police, service providers, charities, businesses and residents to address the pressing issue of rough sleeping and begging, especially in relation to increasing reports of anti-social behaviour in Westminster. We also discussed this in relation to other associated issues such as open drug and alcohol use, as well as the organised criminal element present in some cases.
I am, of course, aware of several instances of persistent anti-social behaviour across the constituency, especially in relation to aggressive begging and rough sleeping. Sadly the accounts and stories shared at the meeting were all too familiar, but the drive and determination to take this issue on was certainly most encouraging. Cllr Aiken and the Council will be looking to introduce and implement a series of new initiatives and policies in the months ahead so that those in need are given all possible assistance, with wrap around support to look after what are often complex needs (i.e. addiction and mental health issues), as well as tackling and discouraging participation in anti-social activities. A significant part of this strategy will be to further join up the work and thinking between the charities and agencies that already do such in Westminster, with a pooling of resources and know-how paramount to better coordinating this important work.
I eagerly await the formal presentation of the plans of action that have emerged from this discussion, and will continue to work with all local agencies where I can to give those sleeping on our streets the support they need to build a better future. I must praise Cllr Aiken, as well as all of those who were present, for their commitment and determination to take on these issues and for committing to positive, meaningful action.