A new policy from Manchester Council aimed at tackling aggressive begging has been branded ‘absolute crap’ by the city’s Lib Dem leader.
In a series of angry tweets, John Leech, who leads the opposition in the town hall, slammed the policy and promised his party would ‘oppose it until the end of time’.
The council says only those caught ‘aggressively’ begging will be hit with fines of up to £1,000 but Mr Leech said this sort of policy can and has been used as an excuse to ‘clean up the streets’.
The new ‘public space protection order’ will also ban tents and fine people who refuse to move out of doorways or stairwells in what the Lib Dems have slammed as ‘social cleansing’.
Defending his comments, John Leech who was Withington’s MP for a decade, said:
“Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester Council, described Christmas as “peak begging season”, the council claimed soup kitchens organised by communities and outreach teams are a “bad idea” whilst fining and trying to sue the homeless, spending £10,000 on one-way tickets to get rid of rough sleepers, refusing to build affordable and social housing and claiming the only way to tackle “offenders” is to fine them.
“This is just another piece of Labour’s social cleansing plan, and whilst this city experiences the worst homeless crisis in decades, rather than tackling the causes, Labour in Manchester is investing in fines, court orders and inane policies that are so broad and lacking in detail that it can only be seen as an attempt to clean up the streets.
“If that’s not crap, then frankly I don’t know what is.”
Deputy council leader Nigel Murphy defended the policy saying: “It’s essential that everyone is able to enjoy public spaces in our city centre which are safe and welcoming. Nobody should have to put with behaviour which has a negative impact on them or their environment.
“We have heeded the concerns of people living and working in the city centre, and visitors, about various anti-social behaviours and drawn up proposals for a PSPO to help address them.”
Manchester council has already taken out a number of injunctions against homeless people living in tents across the city but the town hall rejected the Lib Dem ‘social cleansing’ accusations.
The council’s proposal goes out to consultation today.