Thursday, 23 June 2011

Travellers: Why a Labour Council has improved the situation in just 5 weeks

Last week after just 10 days, travellers were removed from Arden Hall. For too long, too little has been done to ease this near often blight on the public.

There has been cheap criticism that the swift action was due to my home being nearby, which unfortunately is a tacit admission that the previous council did not act swiftly enough in traveller cases. It has to be said that this was the first traveller encampment of a Labour Council barely 7 weeks old.

It is not just in swift action though. There had been neglect and the cheap criticism is unfounded. On the contrary congratulations are in order to Labour cabinet member Clare Pritchard for gaining a 24 hour removal notice of travellers from Huncoat - within a day of them pitching up.

The travellers had moved from Arden Hall to the Huncoat Playing field. Whilst the Labour Council started serving them with the usual court notice, they also swiftly engaged in consultation with Julian Platt at the Police.

Those discussions have resulted in better joined up working and a improved approach to removing travellers, the police having different powers than the Council and where they can move on illegal encampments within 24 hours (or less).

As a result of a Labour Council's swift action, the travellers were served with a notice last night requiring them to move by 5pm today.

The police have Section 61 powers which were unknown to the Council and highlight the ineffectiveness of the previous administration. These allow them to serve removal notices where there is:

a) Public concern and community tension arising from the encampment

b) Criminal damage (e.g. driving over a playing field)

c) an encampment that prevents the public use of a public facility (such as a playing field)

This would not apply to, say, a derelict piece of land (since there is no public facility) - but id does apply to many of our recreational fields.

What we have all learned from this episode, is that it is always helpful if the public complain directly, and in numbers, to the police as well as the Council. The police will generally choose not to get involved unless pressed to do so.

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