Harlow unions back Essex Police over traveller situation

Politics / Wed 27th Aug 2014 at 10:55am

HARLOW TUC is dismayed at the frenzy of recent anti-Traveller media coverage over unauthorised encampments in our town.

A spokesperson said: “We call upon on councils throughout Essex to provide permanent and transient pitches to satisfy the Equality Act 2010 and to placate criticisms of the UK raised by a 2011 report from the United Nation’s Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“We also voice our concern at the conduct of our town’s MP, Robert Halfon, who has made high profile comments urging police to take tough action against Travellers using section 61 of the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994.

Perhaps Robert Halfon should read the Association of Chief Police Officers guidance on dealing with unauthorised encampments, which makes it clear that the policing process is to weigh the interests of landowners and the settled community with that of the human rights of Gypsies and Travellers. Police Inspectors are urged to make judgements based on criteria laid out in a Code of Practice for each given situation following an initial site assessment, not on the needs of the local MP looking for a bandwagon to gain re-election.

The ACPO guidance makes this illuminating comment: ‘In managing unauthorised encampments officers must be sensitive to the fact that there is a lack of pitches on authorised sites across the country, making it difficult or even impossible for people to avoid setting up unauthorised pitches.’

“In Essex the county council manages 12 Gypsy/Traveller sites in 8 district and borough councils with a total of 186 pitches. Harlow council provides the most with 44 pitches. Noticeably, Brentwood, Southend, Tendring and Thurrock councils do not have any sites.

“In local government the Conservatives have repeatedly used planning technicalities to stop authorised sites being established or only to provide the bare minimum when in coalition.

“In 2011 Basildon Conservative led council evicted large numbers of Travellers from land at Dale Farm, the land having been bought by the Traveller community in a move to overcome the shortage of authorised sites.

“At a government level, the Caravan, Criminal Justice and Public Order Acts have been amended on numerous occasions to make Gypsies and Travellers’ lives more difficult. This has resulted in the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination condemning the UK for failing to satisfy the health, culturally appropriate housing and education needs of the Gypsy and Traveller community, as well as condemning the evictions at Dale Farm.

“The attitude of some Harlow councillors and Robert Halfon appears to demonstrate their ignorance of their public sector duty under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, which states: ‘Having due regard to the need to foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it involves having due regard, in particular, to the need to (a) tackle prejudice, and (b) promote understanding.’ Travellers and Gypsies are covered by the race protected characteristic.

“So while Harlow TUC and the local community are concerned about anti-social behaviour on unauthorised encampments, it is unreasonable for current and former Conservative councillors and Robert Halfon to launch a media attack on Travellers and Harlow Labour council. The root causes of today’s problems are discriminatory Gypsy and housing policies over many decades that have created a shortage of pitches. The one saving grace is that it appears Essex Police are more mindful of equality legislation than councillors or MPs.

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5 Comments for Harlow unions back Essex Police over traveller situation:

2014-08-27 16:27:02

Point one - What about the human rights of the people who live near these illegal encampments? Are they not allowed to live in peace and security? Point two - Harlow provides more legal pitches than any other authority in Essex - so why don't the Travellers use them? Point three - Travellers do not pay tax, so why should taxpayers fund them at all - it's their choice to live that way. Point four - Travellers could get themselves much better reputations if they cleaned up properly when they moved on. Instead they leave a mess for local taxpayers and local authorities to clean up - oven involving human waste. The fact is no-one has anything personal against Travellers - it's like most pubs say - "please behave and leave quietly - we have Neighbours to think about!" Perhaps the TUC and Harlow's Labour Council should be more mindful about the wishes and the taxes paid by Harlow Residents!

Lee Dangerfield
2014-08-27 17:26:26

It's very sad that Harlow council and Harlow Labour Party feel this way regarding the travellers but it does show the town why certain things like a public meeting nor an extra agenda item was added to the last full council.. Perhaps the labour leader and his other councillors will invite them all for Christmas dinner.

Lee Dangerfield
2014-08-27 17:28:21

http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art/38855/Solidarity+action+in+support+of+Harlow+Travellers this is how they communicate the issue

2014-08-28 13:36:32

For those concerned about land occupation and illegality it would be worth remembering the systematic robbery of common land by the wealthy over many centuries using undemocratic Acts of Enclosure at a time when only the landed gentry could vote. These land grabs are not something Tories like to talk about. Tories far prefer to bend the law by discriminating against Travellers using every planning technicality. The following Guardian article is informative: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/apr/30/remember-kinder-scout-britain-common-land

2014-09-01 21:57:54

A complete joke sieze their vehicles!

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