John Leech slams Manchester Council on homelessness

Labour today have an opposition day debate on Universal Credit. They are rightly calling out the huge flaws in the system and the misery its botched implementation is causing.

What’s interesting is that they now accept that the principles behind Universal Credit – as an end to the poverty trap – were sound. It is the huge cuts post 2015 when the Tories were governing on their own, and the implementation which leaves people without money for six weeks as standard which must be stopped. They raise the issue of homelessness and evictions caused by Universal Credit, too.

Unfortunately, Labour’s council in Manchester isn’t so sympathetic to homeless people. The one man opposition to Labour, our John Leech, has discovered that, rather than help people sleeping rough in the city, they are merely giving them a one way ticket away.

John dubbed them of  the most right-wing in the country after discovering that they spent £10,000 on one-way tickets to ‘get rid’ of the homeless.

Following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, Manchester City Council, which had 78 rough sleepers last year, admitted it had spent almost £10,000 on one-way train tickets for homeless people in the past six years.

In a stinging statement, he said:

I am utterly appalled at this revelation but unfortunately not at all surprised, it is completely typical of this council’s apathetic attitude towards homelessness. Sweep the problem under the carpet and hope no-one notices – that’s the Manchester Labour way.

Manchester’s homelessness strategy should be about getting people off the streets, not just the streets of Manchester. All this is doing is shunting them from one city to another and without a strong support network in the city they are sent to, they will be left in an even worse place.

Manchester Council has spent years refusing to build affordable homes, approving luxury developments, evicting and trying to sue the homeless, ignoring the rough sleepers problem and now buying them out of the city – it’s a pretty lengthy record.

The country’s most right-wing Labour council has reached a whole new low.

It was claimed that the strategy was set up to help homeless people return to their families and ten councils said they had bought tickets for homeless people between 2012 and 2017, but one man told how he was bought a ticket to a city he had never been to before, saying it made him ‘feel sick.’

This is not the first time Manchester Council has been accused of ineffectively addressing the homelessness crisis in Manchester. Recent disagreements over affordable housing in the Manchester Labour group caused tensions to boil over, with Mayor Andy Burnham being forced to step in.

In 2016, Manchester Council effectively evicted and tried to sue a group of homeless people who had pitched tents in the city centre and in 2015, Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester Council, cause controversy when he wrote in a blog post that the “most likely beneficiaries [of beggars] are the nearest off-licence, drug dealer, or the mysterious people seen dropping some beggars off in the city centre and then picking them up again later in the day.”

If John wasn’t there, Manchester Labour would continue with this sort of attitude unchallenged. Let’s hope his spirited opposition will reinvigorate the Liberal Democrats in the city.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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20 Comments

  • It’s a pity the Liberal Democrat MP’s (including John Leech), and the Minister Steve Webb, didn’t anticipate the difficulties of introducing Universal Credit when they voted for it…… but hey, what the heck, let’s assume the moral high ground despite what they voted for anyway. ‘They Work For You’ shows :

    1. John Leech voted to introduce Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments and to restrict housing benefit for those in social housing deemed to have excess bedrooms. On 9 Mar 2011:
    2. John Leech voted to introduce Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments and to restrict housing benefit for those in social housing deemed to have excess bedrooms. On 13 Jun 2011:
    3. John Leech voted against introducing a childcare element to Universal Credit.

    Oddly enough, because I don’t always rate him, a very impressive interview with Andy Burnham on the Today programme this morning – including the rise of homelessness and rental evictions following the introduction of U.C.

  • There is a ding dong battle going on between Leese on one side and the Mayor of Salford and Burnham on the other within Labour. It’s good that Leach has found this out.

    Leech could have added that Labour must be united on tackling homelessness with the provision of social and affordable housing within the borough and GM not squabbling amongst themselves.

  • nigel hunter 18th Oct '17 - 10:03am

    Whatever we did in the past does not absolve the Labour rulers of Manchester to ‘pass the buck’ to other areas .They should provide accommodation for those who need it.

  • “Cottonopolis” was founded in the days of the industrial revolution and the ‘New Poor Law’. It sounds as if they’re going back there instead of being forward-looking!

  • Only 78 rough sleepers in a city the size of Manchester tells to me that they and/or local support groups, are doing a good job…In my small Midlands town we have around 20 ‘regular’ rough sleepers of both sexes…
    Glib remarks like “They should provide accommodation for those who need it” shows a complete lack of understanding of the situation…Kipling’s “Single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints” comes to mind, Crime, drugs, drink, to say nothing of psychological problems makes long term, or even short term, solutions a complex mix…Even getting a doctor’s appointment can be so fraught with problems, from both sides, that ‘wrestling fog’ seems easier…

  • @ Nigel Hunter “Whatever we did in the past does not absolve the Labour rulers of Manchester to ‘pass the buck’ to other areas .They should provide accommodation for those who need it.”

    Sorry, Nigel, in the real world there is an old proverb : “Money makes the Mare to go”.
    For that accommodation to be provided you must remember the Government, of which we (and Mr Leech) were a part cut local authority spending in England between 2010-15 by over £ 18 billion. Non-shire areas (like Manchester) did worse than the Tory Shire Counties. Mr Leech voted for this.

    There is a word which describes voting for something and then blaming (however spiritedly) somebody else.

    I suggest you download this study by Herriot Watt University.

    THE COST OF THE CUTS: THE IMPACT ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT …
    https://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/default/files/jrf/migrated/files/Summary-Final.pdf

  • David Becket 18th Oct '17 - 11:16am

    When Universal Credit was first proposed it looked a good idea, making the system simpler. Since 2015 it has gone badly wrong thanks to the way the Tories have mismanaged it. The call is for it to be put on hold and sorted out.

    As far as Bedroom Tax is concerned in principal it had some good points. As a councillor I was frustrated when a family in a two bed flat could not exchange with an elderly couple in a three/four bed house. The mistake, and as liberals we should have spotted it, was not to make imposition of the tax subject to being offered an alternative smaller property in the same locality. Introduce that clause and this could become a very liberal idea.

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Oct '17 - 12:11pm

    “When Universal Credit was first proposed it looked a good idea, making the system simpler. Since 2015 it has gone badly wrong thanks to the way the Tories have mismanaged it. The call is for it to be put on hold and sorted out.”

    Quite! p**sups and breweries……

  • David Becket 18th Oct ’17 – 11:16am…………….When Universal Credit was first proposed it looked a good idea, making the system simpler. Since 2015 it has gone badly wrong thanks to the way the Tories have mismanaged it. The call is for it to be put on hold and sorted out………..

    “Since 2015 it has gone badly wrong”????? And there was I thinking that problems were obvious from April 2013…In Summer/Autumn 2013 the system was being denounced from all sides…

    Remind me, David, who were in government in 2013?

  • George Kendall at 11:38am “@David Becket. Completely right on both counts.”

    Wouldn’t it have been simpler to say, “Not me, Guv…….. The dog ate my homework, I had a migraine, my Granny died and I had a power cut which stopped my telephone working- or even, I should have gone to Specsavers before I read the Bill ?”

    Here’s some hard facts just released by my local CAB.

    “East Lothian was the first Scottish local authority to implement Universal Credit full service. In January 2017, Musselburgh and Haddington Citizens Advice Bureaux conducted a two week ‘snap shot’ survey of their clients enabling them to calculate their benefit entitlements under Universal Credit in comparison to the six legacy, working age benefits it replaces.

    The research found that 52% of the 134 clients would lose under Universal Credit, with a median loss of £44.72 per week. This is in comparison to the 31% of clients who would gain under the new system, with a median gain of £0.34 per week. The research shows that if all 134 respondents claimed Universal Credit rather than legacy benefits at the end of January 2017 there would be a net reduction of £2,923.55 per week paid out to claimants”.

  • David Becket 18th Oct '17 - 2:28pm

    The system was not being denounced on all sides, the idea of making one single payment was welcome, it would clear up a great deal of confusion.

    The problem was the cuts in the amount of benefit money available, which we went some way to opposing when in power. Once the Tories had a free run things got out of hand. Who was in power when it got into trouble in East Lothian? I also suggest that had the situation got this bad when we were in power we would have called a halt, as required by Conference, to sort out the mess.

  • “Who was in power when it got into trouble in East Lothian?” That comment would beggar the belief of an ostrich.

    What was introduced in January, 2017 was the product of a Coalition Act of Parliament (the Welfare Reform Act 2012) passed on the watch of a Lib Dem Minister (Steve Webb) and 56 other Liberal Democrat MP’s. Did they not scrutinise what was a complicated piece of legislation or get advice ? Surely that is what they were there for ?

  • David Becket 18th Oct ’17 – 2:28pm…….The system was not being denounced on all sides, the idea of making one single payment was welcome, it would clear up a great deal of confusion….

    More re-writing history…I suggest you read newspaper/media reports of the period; high level resignations, staff complaints about internal chaos, manual spreadsheets because of IT failures, etc., etc., and even the ‘Daily Telegraph’ highlighting problems….

    Still, blind loyalty and a refusal to accept responsibility seems endemic in this party

  • David Becket 18th Oct '17 - 3:52pm

    The original idea was a trial roll out, if it went badly then stop it until it could be put right.
    There was a trial, it went badly – now is the time to stop it. Let us put the blame where it should be, at those who are seeing things go wrong and not doing anything about it.
    However much Scrutiny is given by MPs, who are not experts, then the real test come at the trial.

  • David Becket 18th Oct '17 - 4:39pm

    Let us get this in perspective. An expert in this area, Dame Louise Casey has just commented:
    “And it’s about delivery. So, the overall strategy might be right, the overall intention might be right, but the fact of the matter is the actual delivery of it, means that some people – because of the waiting time before benefit kicks-in – will end up in dire circumstances; more dire than I think we’ve seen in this country for years, and that we have to stop.”

    There is no criticism of the overall strategy or intention but of implementation, which started to go badly wrong with the Tory cuts of 2015.

    Now to the other comments. Both the Daily Telegraph and Poly Toynbee had concerns, particularly about part time work and self employed. Nothing that could not have been put right. The IT was a shambles, which led to much of the staff concerns. However show me a government project where the IT is not a shambles. If every government project was stopped because of IT issues we would never do anything.
    Enough here to advise proceed with caution but not to initially stop a project where the overall strategy was right.

    Now to the second issue where those who believe the Lib Dems did nothing right in coalition are accusing me of blind loyalty. Not true

    I was a critic of much of the Lib Dem actions during that period. From the Rose Garden, the Student Fee Vote, the botched changes to the NHS, the failure to make offering an alternative before applying Bedroom Tax to the insistence of continuing with hard austerity when releasing the brakes would have helped the economy grow and take pressure off the low paid. My wife left the party, I nearly did. (She has rejoined).
    Were we wrong to support the principal of Universal Credit? No, just a pity it was left to Tories to implement.

  • @ David Becket Louise Casey. It would help if you had quoted Dame Casey in full

    “Universal Credit, the government’s overhaul of the benefits system, will make life harder for the working poor at a time the country is “fraying at the edges”, a former senior government official has warned. Dame Louise Casey, who conducted a review into community cohesion and extremism, said the rollout of the system should be “paused”. The Independent, 29 September, 2017.

    Surel, Lib Dem MP’s should have not been proceeding on a ‘suck it and see’ basis ?

  • David Becket 18th Oct ’17 – 4:39pm………………Now to the other comments. Both the Daily Telegraph and Poly Toynbee had concerns, particularly about part time work and self employed. Nothing that could not have been put right. The IT was a shambles, which led to much of the staff concerns. However show me a government project where the IT is not a shambles. If every government project was stopped because of IT issues we would never do anything…………..

    THe whole thing depended on the IT working…In 2014 a DWP official declared that computer system was “completely unworkable”, “badly designed” and “out of date…Without accurate information how do you sort out payments?…

    Eight out of 10 tenants in social housing put onto UC fall into rent arrears or increase pre-existing arrears.
    Families that cannot manage the required 42-day wait before the first payment are routinely referred to food banks by housing associations and local MPs.
    Processing delays additional to the formal wait force some claimants to wait as long as 60 days for a first payment.
    The number of private landlords willing to take on benefit recipients declined sharply due to uncertainty over the system…

    Please explain how YOU would implement a system with so many flaws?

  • David Becket 19th Oct '17 - 2:35pm

    In 30 years working in the IT industry I came across projects that ran into difficulties, usually government projects. The client had two choices, to abandon the project and go back to the drawing board or put extra resource and additional time into the project. The client usually chose the latter as being the least expensive and disruptive. This was the path chosen for the Universal Credit project and if Lib Dem MPs had been able to stop it (which is very doubtful) they would have been criticised for wasting Taxpayers money.

    Nobody, except possibly non de plumes bent on blaming all our ills on the Lib Dems, is suggesting that IT is the major problem now. If there are still IT issues the hold we are proposing will enable these to be sorted.

    This blame the Lib Dems for everything is getting both tiresome and far fetched. Our efforts today should be concentrating on producing a non socialist programme for picking up the mess created by May and her dysfunctional cabinet.

  • Dean Crofts 20th Oct '17 - 9:14am

    MPs have themselves to blame for the situation with UC. When the tax credit reductions were voted down in Parliament everyone forgot that the reductions would come in the name of Universal Credit anyway. This could have been avoided if MPs had been aware of Universal Credit and voted against the work allowances reductions when they fought so hard to save tax credits which will be extinct in a couple of years anyway.
    UC with work allowances is a good benefit, get rid of the 7 day wait reducing the 6 weeks for first payment to 5, increase UC in line with CPI (like pensioners), abolish alternative payment arrangements and repayment of debt for people on UC standard allowance – giving people a debt holiday while looking for work or ill and then it will give the individual the responsibility with the allowance received instead of it all being taken before its even been received.

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