As Manchester City Council began to consider tougher penalties for antisocial behaviour in the city centre, the Liberal Democrat leader of the opposition John Leech branded the plan “social cleansing”.
The council began a consultation on February 12 on a new ‘public space protection order’, which could punish begging, refusing to move from a doorway or other acts like public urination with an on-the-spot £100 fine.
Tents used by homeless people could also be banned.
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“It’s social cleansing,” Mr Leech told talkRADIO’s James Whale.
“The council is attempting to remove people form the city centre, and actually a lot of the antisocial behaviour they’re referring to in this order is already a criminal offence and should be dealt with in other ways.
“This is just a smokescreen so they can force people away from the city centre.”
He added that moving homeless people out of one area would not solve other issues in their lives, and could lead to an increase in rough sleeping in other parts of Manchester.
'It moves the problem from one area to another'
“There has been a big increase in people on the streets in South Manchester where I represent,” he said
“If you move people out of the city centre they’re not going to stop sleeping on the streets. They’re just going to be doing it somewhere else.
“It’s moving the problem from one area to another, it’s not a solution.”
He said that homelessness would not be tackled when its underlying causes were not looked into.
“One of the reasons we’ve still got a problem on the streets is many of these people suffer severe mental health problems and addictions to drugs and alcohol, and they’re not yet in a position where they want to get off the streets,” he continued
“What we ought to be doing is making more of an effort to stop people ending up on the streets in the first place.
“This is another example of why Manchester’s Labour council has been described as the most right-wing labour council in the country.”