Liberal Democrat leadership hopefuls, Ed Davey and Jo Swinson, are the latest to weigh in on the Homeless Tax row.
In a scathing joint statement today, the future Lib Dem leaders slammed the policy as “grotesque” and said Labour should “hang their heads in shame”.
Manchester Council is currently considering a new Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) which, if implemented, would mean anyone caught ‘aggressively begging’ or pitching tents in the centre could be fined £100.
Failure to pay could result in court appearances and further fines of up to £1,000.
Manchester Lib Dem leader John Leech quickly landed himself in hot water after branding the proposal “absolute crap” in a series of angry tweets.
Arriving in Manchester for a head-to-head debate this evening, Ed Davey and Jo Swinson backed Leech’s campaign and unleashed a bruising double statement.
Davey criticised Labour’s “abysmal” record on affordable housing and said the plans “punished the very vulnerable people we should be protecting.”
Swinson, the bookies’ favourite to win the leadership race, slammed the “totally heartless, barely believable approach” and pressured Labour “to urgently think again.”
Referencing the Council’s recent treatment of buying one-way tickets homeless to leave the city, Ed Davey continued, “This Homeless Tax is just the latest in a string of cruel policies implemented by a council in desperate need of a larger Lib Dem opposition.
“As Labour hang their heads in shame, I stand with John Leech and Liberal Democrats across the city in calling for this to be immediately scrapped.”
Jo Swinson added, “These people have suffered so much already and the Council should be thoroughly ashamed of hitting them with this Homeless Tax.
“We have a duty to care for, not punish, the most vulnerable in society and Labour needs to urgently think again.
”I am proud that Liberal Democrat Councillor John Leech is leading the resistance to this grotesque, inhumane policy.”
John Leech, who has locked horns with Council Leader Richard Leese over the controverial issue, welcomed the statement, saying “no matter who is elected leader of the party, they will be united against this dreadful proposal.
“Only the Liberal Democrats are standing up for Manchester’s most vulnerable and I’m grateful to Ed and Jo for backing our campaign.”
The public consultation phase has closed and the policy will be decided by the Labour executive. The Lib Dems have criticised the decision saying the proposal come to full council for a cross-party vote.