IN three weeks time the winners of the Hereford BID Business Awards 2017 will be announced at the Shire Hall.

The awards celebrate the members of the Hereford Business Improvement District (HBID) who strive to make the city centre a better place to visit and shop.

But they also celebrate the work of HBID who work throughout the year to also make the city centre a great place to be.

At the moment HBID is working to address the issue of begging in the city centre.

It is an offence to beg in a public place and a beggar can be arrested for committing such an offence.

HBID's operations and marketing manager, Mike Truelove, said: "Begging is on the increase across the city centre. It is probably a lot to do with the summer months.

"There are regular beggars but there are also new faces that come into the city. They are here for a short amount of time and then they move on.

"Herefordshire Council has a homeless officer, that is her area of work, and about 95 per cent of beggars are thought to have their own homes in this instance."

Mr Truelove said there are, of course, genuine beggars and they are naturally sympathetic. But he said, unfortunately, some beggars have their own accommodation and food and drink, and beg to fund a drug habit.

He said it is a particular problem in Church Street as the street is narrow.

A meeting was held this week in Church Street and 16 businesses from the area attended, as did the Retail Radio Group.

Mr Truelove said: "We spoke about the impact of begging and things we might be able to do. We are trying to come up with solutions which include giving feedback to the police. The idea is to give the police more intelligence on the repeat offenders."

He said The Freedom Church is providing assistance to homeless people and there is help out there.

Mr Truelove said one of the options they are considering is a poster campaign so if members of the public do want to give money they can donate to a central pot rather than directly to an individual.

He added: "There is a lot of sympathy towards the homeless. The businesses are not hard-nosed. They care about genuine people. They want to do something about the people who aren't genuine."