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COUNCIL DENIES U-TURN OVER 'BIG ISSUE'

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Liverpool City Council have issued a statement saying they were disappointed by the response from the publishers of...
Liverpool City Council have issued a statement saying they were disappointed by the response from the publishers of the Big Issue following the police investigation into alleged drug dealing in the city. (See LGCnetfor full details.)

The council said: 'The city council met with representatives of the Big Issue last Friday to discuss a number of concerns which we had following the outcome of the police investigation. These included: the proper identification of vendors; the proper identification of pitches for selling the magazine; the training, management and supervision of vendors; rehabilitation strategies for housing, jobs and drugs treatment: specific support schemes for those with drug problems and effective liaison with the police, public organisations and businesses.

'At the meeting, the Big Issue acknowledged that these were legitimate and serious concerns which they were in the process of tackling. We agreed to work together to maintain Liverpool's reputation as a safe city to live, work and visit. The Big Issue agreed to take immediate measures to deal effectively with some of the issues that had been raised. We are awaiting detailed proposals from them.

'The city council believes a 'cooling off' period will give the company sufficient time to show that they take the situation extremely seriously and also have the capacity and commitment to deal with these issues effectively.

'The city council has been a strong supporter of social enterprises in Liverpool, particularly the parent company of the Big Issue - the Big Life Company. We have sponsored their events, worked with them on a number of pioneering initiatives and given wholehearted support to the work they do to help the most vulnerable members of our society.

'However, we are not prepared to compromise the safety of any citizen of the city, nor are we prepared to allow or condone illegal activity. We want Liverpool to remain a safe and welcoming place for those who live, work, visit and play in the city. We believe the Big Issue shares this vision and we look forward to continuing to work with them. The Home Office and the Rough Sleepers Unit support the city council's position.'

However, the Big Issue issued a statement saying Liverpool City Council and Merseyside police have been forced into a humiliating climb down over their illegal 'ban' on sales of The Big Issue in the north in the city centre, following the threat of an injunction.

Vendors will be back in the town centre, selling on their pitches from 5.30pm on Friday.

Fay Selvan, chair of The Big Issue in the north, said: 'The council's change in views has been welcomed by our vendors. At last they have realised the unjustness of wholesale banning, following the charges brought against a handful of vendors.

'Knowing they can sell the magazine without threat of arrest from Merseyside Police will make a huge difference to their morale and motivation.'

All legitimate vendors wear ID badges with their pitches and badge number stated. This number should correspond with the number on the magazine they are selling. Vendors also adhere to a code of conduct governing the way they sell the magazine. A number of pitches in the city centre are marked by pavement stencils.

Fay continued: 'The actions of the council and the police throughout operation Manton have seemed a tough response to a serious problem, but was really only targeting an easy and vulnerable group - homeless people and people suffering from drug addictions.

The results, in our eyes, clearly demonstrate that the operation was a headline grabbing stunt rather than a long term solution.'

During the period that the council and police enforced their ban over 60 vendors we re denied a legitimate income. A Team of staff worked to relocate some vendors to areas outside the town centre.

'This has been a difficult time for all our vendors who have had to suffer the indignity of being treated as second class citizens and having their reputations tarnished as a result of a shambolic attempt to blame The Big Issue in the north for all the problems in Liverpool City Centre.

'Despite the unfortunate comments made by city councillors this week about the work of The Big Issue in the north, no other organisation has worked harder and more effectively to tackle homelessness, crime and anti-social behaviour in the city centre during the past 10 years.'

During this period, The Big Issue in the north has lost significant sales of the magazine. The collective financial loss to vendors is catastrophic. Individual vendors across the north have reported that they have been the target of abuse and ridicule by some members of the public as a result of the adverse publicity this unfortunate episode has generated.

The Big Issue in the north works with over 80 vendors across Liverpool and in the first six months of this year has helped 12 people into detox, 59 into accommodation, 12 into employment, 24 into external training and 168

people are currently undertaking a range of training programmes.

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