SHE wants begging banned, schoolchildren who scrawl graffiti made to scrub it off, and something to be done about the “evil little toe-rags” causing trouble on her patch.

Dawn Barnett has a fearsome reputation among councillors. I’m sitting in her living room with a cup of tea and a fruit slice.

From an armchair at her suburban home, the 78-year-old great-grandmother addressed her reputation head on. She said: “I am outspoken. I don’t care. I say what I think.

“I get a lot of people who say to me, ‘at least you say these things’. If you don’t say how you feel you’re not going to get an answer.

“I’m bolshy,” she laughed.

Cllr Barnett leafed through a notepad full of concerns about the city. It’s a big list.

First on the agenda is drugs. She said: “A lot needs to be done about the drugs problem. The police do a good job – they do, they try – but it’s much bigger than that now.

“We’ve got drug dealers all round Hangleton – you watch the cars cruising round at night to get rid of their stuff.”

Cllr Barnett said young people on her patch are taking “wacky baccy and cocaine”.

She said: “I don’t think it’s the young teenagers on heroin, but there’s a lot of it about. I could walk five minutes from here and buy some heroin.”

She was critical of support offered to drug addicts, saying: “A lot of it is self-inflicted, so why should we give them extra money? They know what they’re doing when they get involved with drugs.

“I’m old now, and we had drugs around when I was younger but only the idiots touched it and there were very few of them.”

Cllr Barnett is also deeply worried about “the beggars off the seafront”. She said: “At the end of the day, all of this is drugs related. The dealers bringing the beggars in by cars. It shouldn’t be allowed.

“Begging is a crime, you’re not allowed to beg, it’s a bylaw. And the dealers – they want really hard sentences.

“And beggars get bigger benefits if they’re alcoholics or a druggies: why?

“They shouldn’t get those benefits. It’s only feeding their habits.

“What would be good would be food vouchers to take to Sainsburys or wherever and it can only be spent on food.

“And they should have an ID card to say this is me and this is what I’m entitled to. Give them food vouchers because the money is only going to more drugs.”

Then there is homelessness. Cllr Barnett has strong views. She said: “People who come here who don’t live here shouldn’t expect to be housed.

“They come here because there’s a lot going for them. They’ve got the soup kitchen on the seafront, they’ve got Sunday dinners at the Clock Tower, they’ve got Sainsbury’s and Marks handing over their leftover sandwiches distributed of a night.

“That’s why people come here: because there’s a lot of help for them.

“If you set up all the homeless with a room and a bedsit tonight you’d have Brighton full of them again tomorrow.”

For all the problems Cllr Barnett sees in Brighton, she still relishes her role. She said: “I love being a councillor and I could make it a full-time job because I enjoy what I do.

“I like meeting the people. It’s the satisfaction, from pavements, and rubbish to trees falling down – so much goes on.

“I’ve got lovely tenants in social housing. It’s the few who spoil it for everyone else.”

Cllr Barnett said there are troublesome young people causing havoc in Hangleton.

She said: “We’ve got a problem at the moment with a lot of youth, teenage boys on the Knoll of a night.

“They have been causing problems on the Knoll Estate, smashing church doors, kicking balls into other people’s gardens, and using gardens as goal posts.

“Elderly people are nervous about approaching them.

“We always used to hang around in groups when I was younger but we didn’t cause problems.

“We used to sit in the corner and talk. But these are a group of boys – they are naughty.

“Evil little toe-rags,” she laughed.

Next on Cllr Barnett’s list is schoolchildren spraying graffiti.

She said there has been a problem with this in Hangleton lately. “Why don’t they make the school kids scrub it off every Saturday for a month? They wouldn’t do it again if we gave them a bucket.

“I am horrible aren’t I?” she joked.

I thank Dawn for the tea and cycle off down the spotless garden path.