COURT orders banning begging could be imposed on Southend High Street.

Southend Council is ready to take a hard line on enforcement action against those who refuse help, support and engagement and continue to cause problems.

It is one part of an attempt to reach an “agreed plan” with all agencies to tackle rough sleeping and street drinking in the town centre.

The hope is to get all agencies involved to come together for a homeless summit and strategy.

Mark Flewitt, councillor for public protection, said: “In instances of criminal or antisocial behaviour, aggressive begging or nuisance associated with rough sleepers, enforcement action can be taken by police with usual powers.

“It should be stressed that the council, through outreach partners, seeks to engage with rough sleepers and direct them to relevant support before taking – albeit limited – enforcement action.

“We also recognise a great deal more joined-up working needs to take place to tackle the very real and very visible issues the High Street faces.

“Our priority now is to ensure all parties with an interest in homelessness, rough-sleeping and the town centre are all fully signed up to deliver an agreed plan to tackle these issues.

“This will be the subject of a great deal of focus over the coming weeks.”

Fears the problem is worsening were sparked when tents were spotted in the High Street this week which members of the public called “disgraceful”.

At a recent Retail Against Crime group meeting, hosted by Southend’s Business Improvement District team concerns were raised about a lack of engagement.

The meeting proposed educating the public on not giving money to the homeless and a new myth-busting website is expected to be launched this month.

Alison Dewey, of Southend BID, said: “We are working in partnership with the authorities and specialist agencies and doing our level best with the limited powers we have. Naturally, we are fully aware of the problems and are constantly looking for new and effective solutions to what is a highly complex, challenging and difficult situation.

“BID is a business organisation, not social services or the police, and we are dealing with human beings, many of whom themselves are trying to cope with a variety of challenges and complicated personal issues.”