CONCERNS have been raised about modern slavery in a Tyne Valley town.

The matter was raised at a police and community safety update, where local councillor Trevor Cessford said there were concerns people begging for money in Hexham’s Fore Street were seen being dropped off and picked up by car.

“If you look at the boards they hold up they are all the same boards saying exactly the same thing,” the Hexham Central with Acomb representative added. “It makes you think no matter who turns up, they just pass the boards on to them.”

Coun. Cessford asked inspector Garry Neill, of Northumbria Police, whether the force was concerned and looking into the issue of modern slavery in Northumberland.

Insp. Neill said it was “very much an area of concern.” He said: “My initial concern mirrors yours around – are these people actually victims or not? Are they being coerced into doing it?”

He added: “They told us they are father and daughter, whether that’s the case or not I don’t know.”

Insp. Neill said the exact nature of the relationship between the individuals and the modern-day slave trade was something police were “trying to explore.”

He also stated that regardless of whether or not the begging around the area was engineered by modern slavery, it was still an offence; the area’s Public Safety Protection Order (PSPO) also gives the police extra powers in order to move people on if necessary.

Signs of modern slavery can include but is not limited to “evidence of control over movement, either as an individual or as a group; restriction of movement and confinement to the workplace or to a limited area; passport or documents held by someone else; lack of access to medical care”.