Manchester council slammed over video of staff removing tent in city centre

Manchester council has been slammed over a video showing a tent being removed in the city centre. Footage shared widely on social media shows a man in a blue jacket complaining as a Biffa van drives off having collected rubbish and a tent. It is understood the incident happened on Piccadilly on Wednesday afternoon.

Some critics immediately hit out at the council, accusing the authority of targeting the homeless. Twitter user @imjustbait posted the video saying: “Manchester council taking a homeless man’s tent.. he lost his sleeping bags, food and personal possessions. This is disgusting”

However, in a detailed response, Manchester council said the situation was not as straightforward as the video suggests. The authority says their outreach team first noticed that two people were sleeping in the tent underneath scaffolding on Tuesday. They approached but did not get a response.

Tent removed from rough sleepers in Manchester city centre

On Wednesday, the team returned and engaged with a man and a woman who were inside.

The council says the woman was known to staff and has had accommodation for some time. A taxi was then arranged for her to return home. It is claimed the man who was with her then put the tent on the back of the Biffa truck, by which point Greater Manchester Police officers were also present.

Manchester council slammed over video of staff removing tent in city centreVideo shows a Biffa truck removing the tent

A third man, said to be the individual in the blue jacket in the video, then tried to recover the tent from the back of the Biffa truck.

It was this man who is seen in the video objecting to the tent being removed. The council says this man was also known to rough sleeping services, and has also been found accommodation. The incident comes as Manchester council’s position on rough sleepers in the city centre is set to come under scrutiny once more.

Manchester council slammed over video of staff removing tent in city centreA rough sleeper in Piccadilly Gardens

After more than a year of discussion, a controversial new Public Space Protection Order is due to be enforced from October.

The PSPO no longer includes a clause on ‘aggressive begging’ following complaints from campaigners and the threat of a legal challenge from human rights group Liberty. But it does include other clauses likely to target anti-social behaviour associated with rough sleepers, such as public urination, the discarding of needles and occupying a tent in a public place. The PSPO was due to be made in March but the implementation was paused when the UK went into lockdown.

It is understood Neighbourhoods director Fiona Worrall gave the green light for it to be brought into effect in June before the existing PSPO on public drinking expires on October 19. The council needs at least a six-week period for any appeals, as well as time to erect signage, train staff and engage with those who are going to be affected.

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The opposition Lib Dems seized on this week’s video as evidence the PSPO will unfairly victimise the homeless at a time when charities are predicting the problem is about to get worse due to the pandemic. Alan Good, Lib Dem candidate in Ancoats and Beswick said: “It is appalling that a homeless person has had the few belongings they own removed from them in breach of their human rights.

“As a city we should be helping rough sleepers off the street, and our fears that the Council’s punitive PSPO would lead to demonisation of vulnerable people have been reinforced by this distressing footage. “The Council’s PSPO specifically targets the removal of tents, which are only put up in public by homeless people. Manchester City Council needs to apologise, reinstate the belongings and end the targeting of our most vulnerable citizens.”

What the council says:

A spokesperson said: “On Tuesday (Sept 1) members of Manchester City Council’s Outreach Team and staff from drug and alcohol support charity Change Grow Live approached two people sleeping in a tent and tried to speak with them.

They did not get a response so let them be. “The following day (Sept 2) a second approach was made by Greater Manchester Police with more success. A woman who was sleeping in the tent was known to the team and already had accommodation to go to which had been found for her some time ago.

Officers were able to arrange a taxi to safely take her back. “The man she was with, who was also in accommodation, put the tent they were using on the back of a Biffa van and then left the area. “As this was taking place a third individual approached the Biffa van to try and claim the tent.

“He was observed by GMP as being drunk, and continuing to drink alcohol from a plastic pint cup throughout this incident. “This man was not connected to the initial call out and the tent did not belong to him. He was known to GMP and is also known to have accommodation.

“The first part of this interaction was what was captured on camera. While we appreciate the strong feeling that has been created as a result of the footage circulating it is wholly inaccurate to say that we took away anyone’s tent. “Our first priority is always to engage with people who are sleeping rough and try and find a way to get them off the streets.

“No one should be forced to sleep on the streets, even in a tent. “It is common practice for the Council and its partners to remove tents that are no longer occupied as they can often negatively impact our efforts to support people into accommodation, can further entrench the homeless community and can present a public health and security risk.” In response to further questions put by the M.E.N, the council added:

“The Outreach team has extensive knowledge of people who present as being on the streets of the city, whether sleeping rough or begging. “This has been built up over a number of years and most people are known to our services and our partners. “Often, it is the Outreach Team that has secured accommodation for that person.

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“Where people are new to the streets, the Outreach Team will work with them and develop a positive working relationship wherever possible.

This is always with the aim to get people sustainably off the streets of the city. “People may be sleeping on the streets for a variety of reasons, each specific to their circumstances and life experiences. “Finding someone a place to stay off the streets is not the end step for them, or the support we give and it is often a challenging process to support someone who may have spent many years on the street.

“It is also difficult to know if someone is using a tent to sleep in on a long term basis. In our experience they can be used for periods of refuge, as well as being safe places to take drink or drugs. “At this stage we do not know for certain if the people involved in this case had been there for an extended period of time.

“As accommodation had been secured for the people using the tent members of the Street Engagement team made arrangements for its removal.

“This is routine, based on the reasons outlined above about how tents are used on the streets.

“Furthermore the tent was pitched underneath scaffolding which is an inherently dangerous place for it to be located.”

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