Two city councillors clashed over who authorised an £8,000 spend on two guards outside St Peter’s Arcade.
Voices were raised after Labour and Co-operative Cllr Ed Murphy asked who signed off the money for the two guards to be placed outside the city centre pathway for 19 days over Christmas and the New Year.
Cabinet member Cllr Irene Walsh replied: “There was evidence of criminal activity in that area, evidence which could have had an impact on the health and safety of the public. The council is liable for anything that is negligent.
“Had we, with the knowledge that what we had, just left it, you would have been asking tonight ‘why didn’t you do something about it’?”
Cllr Murphy shouted back: “You’re not going to answer the question?”
Earlier, Adrian Chapman, council service director for adult services and communities, had said the decision was “taken around the table” by senior councillors and council officers.
The exchange took place at a council meeting to discuss rough sleeping.
During the meeting Conservative Cllr Steve Allen said businesses are “fed up to the back teeth” of rough sleepers in doorways.
He added: “I think we need to be more strong-minded with how we deal with rough street sleepers.”
Cllr Allen said it was right to try and help people, but he asked what action would be taken to move people on.
Mr Chapman said the council is looking to introduce a Public Spaces Protection Order which would allow it to fine beggars up to £100, be he said this would be a last resort.