THE number of people begging in Exeter city centre has dropped since the introduction of an initiative encouraging people to give instead to charities that support the homeless.

A recent street audit uncovered just five people begging for money on a busy Friday night.

That figure was seven before the multi-agency campaign begun, but recorded on a traditionally quieter Thursday night. There has also been a reduction of people begging during the day.

Cllr Rob Hannaford, Lead Councillor for Housing and Customer Access, said: "We have had good feedback on the campaign from businesses, shoppers and visitors. Everyone has been really supportive and the figures show that it is making a difference.

"We set out to try and change people's behaviour and inform those who may be inclined to give money to people begging that they don't need to do so - Exeter has enough support for those sleeping rough and it is better to give to the charities that support them instead."

All through the summer, stencilled messages have been sprayed onto the pavement at key spots in Exeter city centre in an attempt to stop aggressive and intimidating begging. The 'paint' is a biodegradable chalk that washes off after a while.