A Tory council leader who claimed rough sleepers had made a "commercial life choice" to prey on residents and tourists has sidestepped calls to apologise.

In a series of twitter posts Windsor and Maidenhead council leader Simon Dudley said beggars could present the town in a "sadly unfavourable light" when Prince Harry marries American actress Meghan Markle in May.

And in a letter to police, he complained about "aggressive begging and intimidation", and "bags and detritus" on the streets.

His comments attracted criticism from homeless charities and Prime Minister Theresa May said she disagreed with his assessment.

But Mr Dudley, who is currently in the USA, declined to comment when asked if he regretted his comments.

Instead he said that the local authority had a homelessness action plan, adding: "We await a response from the PCC on the concerns we have raised."

Asked about the remarks during a visit to a hospital in nearby Camberley, Theresa May said: "I don't agree with the comments that the leader of the council has made.

"I think it is important that councils work hard to ensure that they are providing accommodation for those people who are homeless, and where there are issues of people who are aggressively begging on the streets then it's important that councils work with the police to deal with that aggressive begging."

Murphy James, of Windsor Homeless Project, said Mr Dudley's comments were "sickening".

He said: "It's absolutely abhorrent that anybody has got these views in this day and age, especially a lead councillor of the borough.

"I went out on Christmas Day and there were 12 people laid out on Windsor High Street. They were not there by choice."

One homeless woman in Windsor, who gave only her first name, Tracy, said: "The homelessness has not just arose in the last couple of months, homelessness has been going on for years, even in this town.

"But it's only because of this royal wedding that there's been all of a sudden this uproar over the homelessness and the disgrace on the Windsor streets.

"If everyone were to do their job properly there would not be this problem - it's taken for a wedding for them to pull their finger out their bum to sort things out."

Asked what she would say to Mr Dudley, Tracy told the Press Association: "Come spend some time out on the streets with us, get to know us people individually and then tell me where you find these aggressive beggars and these voluntary homeless people.

"He doesn't have a clue what he's talking about."

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead councillor Jesse Grey said he agreed with Mr Dudley's remarks, and claimed the council had offered the town's homeless a place to stay.

"We can't force people, we would like them to accept it, because there's many issues - there's mental health issues, drug dependency, there could be depression, there could be just bad luck - and we have a provision to help them."

Speaking on the streets of Windsor where he had talked to homeless people, he said he had been tackling the issue for the past four years, and that Mr Dudley's suggestion to deal with rough sleepers before the royal wedding was meant as "an incentive, not a reason".

"We are helping them, it's the people that we know that are refusing that help because of their own agenda."

Another homeless man, sleeping in a bus shelter in the shadow of Windsor Castle, said he had been offered temporary accommodation in a "rat infested B&B" by the council but that was the "only time" he has been offered help.

But the 40-year-old, who gave his name as Stuart, said he hoped the spotlight brought by Mr Dudley's letter could help him to get off the streets.

He said Mr Grey had told him he had arranged for someone to come to him as soon as possible, and added: "Gets them off their feet so we might be able to get a bit of help."