In addition to other familiar topics, the problem of homelessness was highlighted at the latest meeting of the Central Ward Neighbourhood Panel last Thursday – and that problem has continually worsened.
Sergeant Craig Burgess, presenting the Neighbourhood Policing report, said that as many as a dozen bicycles per week were being stolen in the town centre, but the worst recent incident had involved criminal damage to the value of £63,000 at the Sir Robert Woodard Academy in Lancing, where other cases of criminal damage – as well as youth disorder and burglary – have been recorded.
From September we will have 13 police officers dedicated to Worthing, Adur and Horsham, but there will be no increase in administrative staff numbers. In real terms, police budget cuts have amounted to £85million over the last ten years.
Some 30 homeless individuals, previously evicted from Union Place, had moved to the Aquarena and incidents involving verbal abuse and assault were reported. The responsibility for moving them lay with the council and papers were to be served the next day.
A significant problem lay in that many (if not all) of these people did not want to be helped or to engage with social services, and they were also attracting street drinkers (who were already housed).
Town centre businesses reported that problems arising from shoplifting and begging had worsened, with alcohol thefts escalating at Waitrose, and Tesco losing custom due to persistent begging.
The absence of rent caps and restrictions on housing benefit – along with unaffordable rents set by private landlords – were identified as major contributors to homelessness and councillor Roger Oakley urged attendees to lobby both Worthing MPs on a regular basis accordingly.
MP for Worthing West Sir Peter Bottomley has undertaken to attend a future meeting of the panel.
The Selden Neighbourhood Panel meets on Tuesday (August 15) at the East Worthing Community Centre at 6.30pm.
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