BEGGARS in Blackburn can make between £60 and £100 per day and agree who will occupy the prime spots in the town centre, councillors heard.

In October last year, the council launched a campaign urging visitors to the town centre not to hand them cash.

Shoppers, visitors and workers were warned that giving money may trap beggars into a cycle of addiction and rough sleeping.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Instead generous locals were urged to give money to charity to support schemes to get beggars off the streets and into homes and drug and alcohol treatment.

Earlier this year, senior Tory councillor John Slater said he wanted the initiative rebooted as the numbers asking for cash from passers-by has started to rise.

Community safety manager Mark Aspin told a scrutiny committee meeting: “The majority of the 300 people we have spoken to over the last 12 months, there were about six or seven that did not have accommodation.

Lancashire Telegraph:

"It is individuals subsidising their income by begging on the streets.

READ MORE: What to do if you see someone sleeping rough

"Obviously there are challenges as to what they use the money for. Most of it is around drug and alcohol addiction but there are situations where people have been threatened with violence.

"The outreach service goes out most days of the week.

Lancashire Telegraph:

"No-one wants to be out there begging so we encourage them to engage with us but we are working against others who don't have their best interests at heart - be it landlords or drug dealers.

"There’s a degree of organisation to the way these people go out and beg.

“There are a number of plots and people will set up at a certain time and then someone will come and replace them later.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Mr Aspin said people often set up outside Brighthouse, Marks & Spencer and near the back of the train station, among other places in the town centre.

He added: "Much of it has been addressed by Street Reach but obviously we do still have people out there.

"There is no quick fix because the first answer when we ask if they want help is usually no.

"There are still people who point blank refuse help and we have taken enforcement action in the past if they are disruptive."

Cllr Vicky McGurk said the prevalence of synthetic drug Spice made the situation worse.

Lancashire Telegraph:

"There seems to be a pandemic at the moment of people using it.

"It is so cheap and it is so devastating but it's so difficult to deal with.

"I spoke to someone who used it and they said when you are homeless or begging it makes you warm - that's why they use it."

READ MORE: Homelessness in BwD hits record high

Mr Aspin added: "It is a major concern - not just in Blackburn but absolutely everywhere.

"You see the zombie effect of these substances and the treatment is difficult because they can be more addictive than heroin.

"It is causing support agencies some real difficulties on how to respond.

"We are on the back foot a little bit.

"From a criminal justice perspective the police are under pressure and what is technically a class B drug is not at the top of their priorities."

Chairman of the scrutiny committee, Cllr Naushad Surve, said: “A year ago there was a problem with organised gangs begging in the town centre. It calmed down for a bit but it has reared its head again.”