The acting deputy leader of Camden Council has issued an apology after “initial investigations” found that the local authority was complicit in an operation to remove homeless people’s tents and throw them into a bin lorry.
It followed a Metropolitan Police operation to remove the tents from private land outside University College Hospital London in Huntley Street, Fitzrovia.
The operation was condemned by Liberal Democrat councillor Matthew Kirk who told colleagues at a Culture and Environment Scrutiny Committee on Monday that the action was “quite a concerning matter”.
Friday’s incident came in the wake of the former home secretary Suella Braverman’s remarks about rough sleepers living in tents had made “a lifestyle choice”.
London has also recorded the highest quarterly number of rough sleepers since records began. Between July and September, outreach workers counted 4,068 people sleeping rough in London.
This is a 12 per cent increase on the same period in 2022 and more than half, or 2,086 people, were living on the streets for the first time.
Adam Harrison, acting deputy leader of Camden, said: “It’s important to acknowledge what happened on Friday was unacceptable. We are sorry about this.”
The council’s acting leader Pat Callaghan has ordered an investigation into what happened.
Harrison said: “Here in Camden we want to put people at the heart of everything we do, but it is clear that something has gone wrong here.
“We can now share that initial investigations, since the operation, have shown that there was operational involvement from Camden — what happened was unacceptable and doesn’t reflect the values we hold as a Council. We will make sure this is clear and understood at every level of the organisation.”
Harrison said: “Whilst this dispersal order was applied for by University College Hospital London and enforced by the police, we acknowledge that waste collection services were arranged through the council and our rough sleeping support services were engaged to support people affected.”
Harrison added: “We are determined to make improvements to how rough sleepers are supported in the borough.”
The police said the move followed a request from the hospital’s security team after concerns that tents had been outside the hospital for up to nine months.
There were also reports of anti-social behaviour, including urination and defecation outside the hospital.
A Met Police spokesperson said allegations also included “patients and staff being intimated or verbally abused by some of those begging and sleeping rough at the location”.
People living in the tents were given two hours’ notice to move.
“All but one of those present left the site; some taking tents with them and some leaving them behind,” said the Police
A remaining man was arrested for allegedly breaching a dispersal order.
The Met said tents which were left behind were removed.
“The personal belongings and the tent of the male who was arrested were not disposed of, since he was present at the location and thus his items hadn’t been abandoned.”