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Last Updated:  Sunday, 9 March, 2003, 13:08 GMT
Beggars top West End 'pet hates'
Leicester Square
Leicester Square is a magnet for beggars
Aggressive beggars in the West End are costing London its tourists, council chiefs have said.

Research for Westminster City Council showed that many visitors are put off a return visit by being repeatedly asked for money.

The central London council is lobbying the government to introduce laws to give beggars criminal records.

A copy of a Home Office White Paper was leaked last week, recommending persistent beggars be fingerprinted and begging convictions be added to a criminal record.

Council leader Simon Milton wants the government to support Westminster's hard line on persistent begging.

He said: "We did a big piece of research with tourists and visitors to London last year. Of all the reasons why, they said, they would not come back or why they didn't like London, aggressive begging was near the top.

Homeless beggar Paul
It is ridiculous. You are homeless, you have got nowhere to live, you are just trying to make money to survive
Paul, London beggar
"It is a serious issue and one that has not really been tackled effectively for several years now."

The council also recently tried to introduce a 500 fine for people caught sleeping rough in its parks as part of its attempts to cut crime and clean up the area.

According to the leaked document, the government believes there is no need for people to beg, because of low unemployment and benefits. Officials also believe begging funds drug addiction.

But homeless charities say the tough approach would not tackle the causes of begging and would be a costly and ineffective solution.

Paul, a rough sleeper, said it was now harder to beg in central London than any time since he became homeless, because of increased police pressure.

He said: "I think it is ridiculous. At the end of the day, you are homeless, you have got nowhere to live, you are just trying to make money to survive."

Begging 'to be outlawed'
07 Mar 03 |  UK
Rough sleepers face 500 fine
27 Sep 02 |  England
Life on the streets goes on
03 Dec 01 |  UK News

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