A COUNCILLOR has called for ‘a purge’ on a borough’s town centre beggars.

Conservative Cllr Patrick McGinley, who represents Overton ward in Great Harwood, has written to Hyndburn neighbourhood policing team on the issue.

He said: “A complaint often made to me from the public is that the police seem to do nothing with the beggars, especially in Accrington town centre.

“Last Thursday, I witnessed beggars at the side of JD Sports in the alley and one opposite the police station. I could not believe my eyes when I then saw three other beggars come along and swap over like a police shift change.

“One moved to the bus station and there is often one at the entrance to McDonalds carpark near roundabout.

“There are signs about ‘no begging’ right where they are allowed to beg.

“The public are really concerned about this matter.

“The local police need to organise a purge and show the community that senior officers really care.”

Insp Steve Rides, of Hyndburn Police, said: “We recognise begging is a contentious issue and understand community concerns.

“While there are those who clearly are vulnerable and need help, sadly there are some individuals who exploit others misfortune and the kindness of the public and use this technique to earn some extra money.

“I can confirm that we have approached and spoken to every person who is presenting as homeless and/or begging in the Accrington area and full multi-agency support has been offered accordingly which includes referrals for housing support. Sadly for some this is a lifestyle choice, but the offer of support will always be there, however, in some cases we are duty bound to take positive action and will be doing so going forward.”

Cllr Miles Parkinson said: “There are a myriad of reason for begging including mental health problems.

“For some it is a lifestyle choice although choosing to sleep rough is hard to comprehend. We do all we can with other agencies to support people off the streets.

“With the small minority of professional and intimidating beggars who do it for financial gain, the council and the police take the appropriate action.”