Manchester City Council
Town Hall Extension
15th February 2019
Dear Richard Leese,
I am writing in response to Manchester Council's Public Space Protection Order consultation.
I am staggered that whilst this city experiences the worst homeless crisis in decades, rather than tackling the causes, Labour are choosing to invest in fines, threatening court orders and this - an inane policy that is so broad and lacking in detail that its only outcome will be to lay the foundations for a comprehensive cleansing of the city centre.
There is no need for consultation, the policy is just wrong. Its intentions are misplaced, its wording is too vague, the argument that it tackles anti-social behaviour is simply not true, because those measures already exist and, critically, it does not address the people who are left on our streets every night.
It's a smokescreen, a sinister coverup, and - if enacted - would be remembered as one of the greatest acts of injustice in Manchester's history.
Manchester moved on from this kind of mistreatment long ago.
We became a diverse, welcoming and tolerant community; we stand up against discrimination, we come together when things get tough, and we find solutions.
But this is not a solution.
This divides our city, it pushes a crisis elsewhere and it solves absolutely nothing.
Just weeks ago, Liberal Democrat Councillors opposed spending £1.2m on the city centre's fountains because we believed the money could be better spent. In fact, £1.2m is enough to house every single person sleeping rough in Manchester for an entire year, along with a hot meal, warm shower and access to a support worker.
That is the kind of immediate solution we need.
We need to invest in preventing the causes of homeleesnsess, stopping people from ending up on the streets in the first place, tackling mental health, drug and alcohol addictions and building more social and affordable homes.
This Homeless Tax doesn't just highlight the gross incompetence and lack of priorities from this council, nor is it just a national embarrassment, but it exposes the deeply worrying, critical and consistent failure of a council that simply doesn’t care.
For all of the reasons above, I want to make it absolutely crystal clear; Liberal Democrats will oppose this every single step of the way and make the implementation of this as difficult as possible.
I know there will be many people who also want to have their say on this, so I am releasing a copy of this letter publicly and I will encourage anyone who agrees with us to sign. I will return to the next council meeting armed with not just my opposition, but the opposition of Manchester.
In the meantime, I urge you to remove the threat of this policy from the hundreds of vulnerable people who have suffered enough.
Councillor John Leech
Leader, Manchester Liberal Democrats