Two outspoken opposition councillors have been rapped after turning up at a flagship homeless hub late at night with a man found begging.
Hindley Green independents Coun Bob Brierley and Coun Paul Maiden were severely criticised by Wigan Council and homelessness charity The Brick which runs the Leigh centre for not observing the rules over referring people living on the streets.
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The two opposition members decided to act last Tuesday night after seeing a man asking for money from passers-by outside Leigh’s Tesco store at around 10pm.
They told him the hub had recently opened and headed over to the former courthouse, only to be denied entrance after a tense exchange with an employee over the intercom.
They also returned a short time later, after 11pm, and it has been claimed they attempted to get inside to look around.
The authorities have now made it clear that the homelessness hub is not a drop-in service and people in need can only gain access if they have been properly referred.
The two councillors were also heavily criticised for making two visits to the facility and accused of intimidating members of staff.
However, the councillors say they were deeply concerned by the situation they discovered and wanted to act.
A town hall spokeswoman said: “This is totally unacceptable behaviour to be approaching a female member of staff late at night when there are protocols in place to refer people into this service in an appropriate way.
“The homeless service is well aware of people in need of support and has an obligation to provide a safe space for those in need of help.
“It is not the role of councillors to bring people to the provision late at night and without any knowledge of what work might already be taking place in an individual’s case.
“Whilst our homeless people are sleeping to have two councillors turn up twice threatening staff if they don’t gain access to ‘have a look around’ is a selfish act. Homeless people sleeping is not a spectator sport.
“Once again these elected officials are in danger of breaching the councillor code of conduct.”
A spokeswoman for The Brick added: “We are very disappointed that the councillors were disruptive at the hub and behaved in an intimidating manner with a member of staff who had already informed them the correct way to seek support.
“We have a procedure in place for the Leigh Hub so that the safety of staff and users of the facility is not compromised which means people cannot just turn up at any time of the night.
“They first arrived at 10:30pm demanding access, then despite explaining to the councillors of the correct way to raise their concerns they returned again at 11:10pm causing further disruption to this service.
“It’s important that members of the public and elected councillors understand the service we provide at the hub and they do not disrupt the effective running of this service.
“We are always willing to work with anyone who is in need of homelessness support and we are helping many people across the borough.”
Both Coun Brierley and Coun Maiden said they were trying to help, with the latter also accusing the town hall of double standards on independent representatives.
Coun Brierley said: “We went round to the shelter but they wouldn’t give us any information and told us to find out his name. When we went back and got him the centre wouldn’t talk to us.
“While we were there another guy was eating food out of the dustbins. I said I would get him some food and I bought him a pizza.
“I was really upset with the conditions these two lads were facing.”
Coun Maiden said: “I was just trying to find out what was going on and see what the score was, because I know sometimes homeless people are offered help and it is turned down. The woman was a bit funny with us.
“We then saw this guy eating dry bread from a kebab he had got out of the bin and he told us he couldn’t get in there.
“We were just trying to see if we could get something done. The council keeps telling us not to play political football with these issues but then they escalate it and get all the momentum going forward. Who’s playing politics then?”