Manchester City Council has had its budget cut year on year since the Tories came to power, despite being in charge of one of the poorest parts of the country. They are also amongst the five hardest hit local authorities in the North, whilst Tory strongholds in the South East remain largely unscathed. Thousands of civil servants who thought they’d achieved a coveted job for life have been made redundant, whilst remaining staff struggle to delegate a dwindling budget. In bringing the Town Hall to its knees, the Tories have ultimately snuck their ideological agenda, and its inevitable fallout, in through the back door.

Child poverty, evictions, in-work poverty, suicides and food bank usage have all risen in tandem with the cuts, but the most visual symbol of the damage being done is the increase in homelessness. Official figures show a year on year increase in rough sleeping since 2010, as well as huge numbers of evicted families, who are put in hostels and B&Bs at an inflated rate to their initial unaffordable rents.

The Labour-led council has not done itself any favours in their handling of the problem, despite their initial forced hand in the matter. Whilst Sir Richard Leese prides himself on leading a compassionate council that rejects austerity, he is just as enthusiastic when purporting false projections of a hospitable city that welcomes all, even the Tories.

On 15 April, activists and homeless people began camping in Albert Square, forcing the Deputy Leader Bernard Priest into talks in which he promised to “radically change the way [they] deal with homelessness in the city”. And he wasn’t wrong. Sending bailiffs to sweep the problem further out of the city centre is pretty radical. There have also been examples of police and council workers destroying tents and possessions belonging to rough sleepers in a bid to cleanse the area, which is deeply troubling.

Actions like this have forced the campers to move away from town, far from the judgemental eyes of tourists and shoppers, from Albert Square via Central Library, the upmarket high street shops of King Street and most recently the Ark on Oxford Road. Despite the residents’ invitations to Greater Manchester Police and council officials to discuss the most recent location, not one police officer took up the offer and council officials only came the day before the eviction, by which time it was too late to alter the situation legally. This would suggest that the eviction was planned with their knowledge and hints at a potential collusion with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).

Just prior to Freshers’ Week, private security staff and bailiffs hired by MMU evicted the residents who had been sheltering under the Mancunian Way bridge whilst local police watched to prevent a ‘breach of the peace’. In his comments, Vice Chancellor Professor Michael Press sounds more like a landowner dealing with troublesome serfs than an Academic avowed to inspire the next generation of young minds.

“My upmost priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students and staff, and to maintain the safety and integrity of our estate,” he said. “I remain deeply concerned that the way this camp was operating, and now seems to be continuing, neither respects our rights, nor provides adequate or legitimate support for those in need.

“For these reasons, the university will continue to seek ways in which the protestors can be removed from our estate. Whilst doing this, we remain sensitive to wider issues associated with homelessness in our city.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the area in question, the Ark’s location bears no influence on university entrances or buildings and is off the pavement. It is a rare piece of land these days that can’t be sold and turned into luxury flats or student dorms, and maybe that’s the rub. It is merely a patch of hinterland between the library and the science campus that is already dominated by a concrete bridge. When the good Professor talks about the “integrity of our estate”, he means the potential damage to the international tuition fee intake.

At the time of writing it’s a week after the eviction, but there are still a few tents camped on the pavement, kept out of the main shelter by fencing. It is unknown how long they will remain there, but they are certainly less secure in fewer numbers on a main strip through which thousands of drunken revellers pass each week, another potentially dangerous element for the vulnerable to deal with.

Further down Oxford Road in Rusholme, there are dozens of people who have been tossed onto the scrapheap, some of whom have severe mental health problems whose need for care is obvious. Satellite towns such as Rochdale have already seen thousands of homeless people move from other boroughs which have refused or merely cannot afford to house them. Pushing the problem out of town seems to be the de rigueur choice for councils who have been overstretched, but it is clearly failing. What’s more, it will end up costing them more politically, morally and even financially, which is at least one thing that they still seem to care about.

Nathan McIlroy