The thieving Tory bastards in Brighton & Hove have established a racist campaign against travellers, following the most recent local elections. Their leading members have persistently cited the travellers as an issue in their conversations with the press. Letters have been written, provocative remarks made. Our local rag, the Evening Anus, has dutifully reported this stance but done nothing by the way of fact checking. Official figures reveal the number of travellers living in and around Brighton & Hove this year to be consistent with the figures for the last decade or so. That fact combined with the thieving Tory bastards’ record during their administration, the one ended at the most recent local elections, undermines any cogency which this political point could collect. It simply isn’t good enough to be silent on an issue but then attack viciously when a party wins power and creates a policy for the matter. The attacks have been vicious. This type of political campaigning is racist. It whips up popular sentiment without a purpose. Inevitably, Brighton & Hove City Council has seen an increase in the amount of racist abuse in calls and emails relating to travellers. The thieving Tory bastards must distance themselves publicly and conspicuously from this racist campaign. Shame on them, for what they have done.
Here is a press release by Pete West, who has the grand title these days of Cabinet Member for Environment and Sustainability in Brighton & Hove City Council but locally is fondly known as our first Green Party Councillor.
Gypsies, Roma and Travellers – the new firm but fair approach
Gypsies, Roma and Travellers have the right to pursue a nomadic way of life.
Like all public bodies, the council has responsibilities to the men, women and children within this community and these include important services such as health care and education.
Like all residents they are also subject to the same responsibilities, so if they behave in an anti-social way or commit a crime then the council or the police will take appropriate action. So as a council we aim to take a firm but fair approach
Brighton and Hove is a tourist destination that attracts many visitors including travellers especially in the summer as it has done for many years
The majority come and camp and enjoy the city and in some cases contribute to the local economy or carry out much needed services for residents
But of course like in any other community there is a minority that leave rubbish on sites or behaviour in an anti-social way or indeed there will be one or two that commit crime.
As a council, we have a duty and responsibility to local residents to ensure they are able to enjoy the city’s parks and open spaces. However at the same time we acknowledge that Gypsies and Travellers are an often marginalised group that suffer a high level of inequality, particularly around life expectancy, health and education issues. They also worryingly still face discrimination and racial hatred.
Until now no council administration had been able to find the right balance between the settled and travelling communities. So as part of our plan to improve our approach to the needs of both communities we are reviewing the council’s Travellers Strategy.
A key plank of this is to create a permanent travellers site – there is a need for this as many travellers live in the city year round. This process has been ongoing for some time but we want to speed this up. We are looking at a number of sites but no decision has yet been made.
We are also looking at ‘tolerated sites’ on less sensitive locations where travelling communities might be allowed to stay for short period of times. This will help reduce the costly and disruptive cycle where travellers move from site to site in what has become a cat and mouse game with the authorities.
The Gypsy and Traveller community are often criticised for anti-social behaviour. One of the proposals in our strategy is for travelling communities entering the city to sign up to Good Neighbour Compacts.
We are still in talks with Sussex Police about how the proposals can be implemented but compacts are already used widely in social housing to good effect and we would hope that most Travellers will sign up.
We are not expecting compacts to solve all the problems but we believe they will help.
Our aim is to ensure Gypsies and Travellers are treated with the same respect and consideration as members of any other community. By the same token, we expect all communities nomadic or otherwise to respect our parks and open spaces and to treat other people with respect and dignity and not to engage in anti-social behaviour.
In the meantime, there are some key questions that should be answered.
Are there more Travellers in the city now than previously?
No, in fact there are less than last year with 41 caravans in unauthorised encampments in January compared with 47 in January 2010. The official count takes place later this month but as of 11 July we had with 51 caravans compared with 52 caravans last year.
In which case why does it appear that there are so many more Travellers in the city?
There has been a great number of small Traveller encampments recently, many occupying sensitive locations such a public parks. This has meant that the encampments during the recent period from April – July 2011 have had a greater impact upon the settled community.
As result, the council has taken swift action to move these Travellers, which has resulted in a merry-go round and the sense that there are a lot of Travellers in the city.
Why is it taking so long for the council to evict the Travellers?
The council has been acting more quickly than ever before to evict Travellers when they occupy unsuitable sensitive locations.
During the period from April to June of this year, the average length of time that is has taken to move-on an encampment has been 11 days.
Last year it was taking 24 days to move on an encampment.
What is the council doing about illegal fly-tipping?
The council does not tolerate illegal fly-tipping from either the settled or travelling communities.
A small minority of travellers have visited the city recently for economic reasons and then fly-tipped their green waste and construction waste. In one successful recent case a vehicle was seized and enforcement action taken against the owner
It is also important to note that sometimes Traveller encampments are used as fly-tipping sites by non-travellers knowing that Travellers will get the blame. Residents are responsible for ensuring they use a licensed waste disposal contractor otherwise it may be their waste polluting parks and countryside.
We are also looking at site protection, which can be expensive, controversial and not necessarily effective.
Is this new policy costing local taxpayers more money?
We appreciate the difficulties that arise from some traveller encampments, and this can lead to worrying tensions. But we are acting to improve the situation for all, and hope others will join us in talking a calm and constructive approach.