As the team of council officers and inSwindon BID staff walk around the main shopping streets, Mark Walker notices a young woman sitting on the pavement with a sign asking for money for food.

The council's community programme lead squats down in front of her and starts speaking, asking her whether she’s got a place to stay that night: “We can’t have you out here in the rain.”

After a brief conversation, he leaves her, and contacts the council's homelessness team, passing on the details of the woman.

He said: “I’ve asked someone from the homelessness team to come and speak to her.

“She was saying she doesn’t speak English, but she seemed to understand me.”

In fact, Mark suspects she may not be in as desperate a plight as she appears.

He said: “We’ve seen here before, and she hasn’t engaged with the homelessness services even though we’ve spoken to her before.

“There’s a couple of other people who beg here, and we don’t think they are actually homeless, and she’s working with them.

“They’ve been seen getting into a car together round the back of the shopping centre and driving off at the end of the day.

“We think they might be coming here from somewhere near Oxford. We do talk to and co-ordinate with other local authorities on these sort of things

“It’s deceiving the public if they’re giving you money thinking you’re homeless and hungry and in fact you’re just doing this as a job and then going home.”