Labour councillor says only way to solve begging is to fine them

John Leech has hit back after a Labour Councillor has said the only way to tackle begging is to fine offenders.

The controversial comments follow Labour's Richard Leese, leader of Manchester Council, who described Christmas as “peak begging season”.

In his blog post, the Labour giant urges people not to give beggars food, clothing or money saying that the cash will end up in an off-licence or in the hands of criminals, claiming the majority of begging is organised. 

In a post titled "Manchester's aggressive beggars should be fined", Labour Councillor John Blundell said: "The point here is: if the incentive is great enough people will do virtually anything. This is why aggressive begging is rife in our city centre. 

"There is only one way to solve this issue...
crack down. Fine aggressive beggars and arrest them."

The comments have been widely condemned by the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and Greater Manchester Housing Action, who slammed Blundell's comments as "encouraging indifference and fear."

Former Manchester MP John Leech, who has campaigned extensively on affordable housing, said: “Blundell’s comments are dehumanising, divisive and frankly just ignorant, only exposing his lack of knowledge and experience on the issue.

"The solution to begging, rough sleeping and homelessness isn’t fines, intimidation and social cleansing - the typical Labour way. It is fixing our broken housing system once and for all, ending luxury developments, guaranteeing genuinely affordable housing, getting people off the streets and preventing the initial causes.

“I will never understand why the Labour party seems to have such a problem with rough sleepers and homelessness - it’s just baffling."

Recent disagreements over affordable housing, rough sleeping, begging and homelessness in Manchester town hall caused tensions to completely boil over, with Mayor Andy Burnham being forced to step in after Mr Leech accused the council of “social cleansing”.

His stinging attack came after the council approved the construction of more than 2,500 homes – not a single one of which they could guarantee would be affordable.

Earlier in 2016, Mr Leech hit out at the Council after they effectively evicted and tried to sue a group of homeless people who had pitched tents in the city centre.

Greater Manchester Housing Action responded to Blundell’s call for fines saying, "The idea that homeless people are being driven to ask for change by a profit incentive is a distortion of reality.

"By seeing the street homeless population as individuals seeking economic opportunity, he is 
willfully ignoring the structural forces that have led to an explosion of street homelessness.

"Using language in this way obscures these wider systemic issues and feeds into the othering of homeless people, encouraging indifference and fear."

The group also hit back at Labour Leader Richard Leese's "clumsy" comments adding: "We need to show compassion for people who have been heavily impacted by the housing crisis and ideological austerity measures, not throw around clumsy phrases like “peak begging season”, or back draconian calls for fines."

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