Letter to Editor: Harlow Tories ask questions over Labour decision on unlawful traveller encampments

News / Sat 18th Jul 2020 at 08:24am

Dear Editor,

As of midnight on Tuesday, our town no longer has an injunction against unauthorised encampments. That is deeply worrying for our community – given the major problems we have faced in ending those encampments in the past.

At that time we worked together with the former Leader of Harlow Council, Jon Clempner, who showed strong leadership. Alongside his efforts, as MP, I kept up the pressure in the House of Commons with meetings, questions and debates with Ministers and Conservative Councillors did all they could to ensure that the unauthorised encampments ended. In 2015 an injunction was granted.

However, last week, Harlow’s Labour Council made the decision not to try and renew the injunction. They have effectively given the green light for unauthorised groups to trespass our town, once again.

The decision poses some serious questions. Our residents deserve answers:

Why was there no consultation before the Labour Council made this decision?

Is it because some Labour Party activists are well known to be sceptical about action against unauthorised encampments and have previously made statements of support for those trespassing?

Why did the Labour Council not look at every possible scenario in advance of the injunction’s expiry and discuss this at full council, in advance of the court case?

Why did the Labour Council not consult with the MP or leader of the Conservative Group on Harlow Council before making this decision?

Why did the Council not bring this matter to a Full Council meeting before making these fundamental policy decisions that could have a negative impact on the wellbeing of our town?

Why did the the Leader of Harlow Council, in response to a question from a Harlow resident in February, say that the Council was fully armed and would be successful in their bid for a renewed injunction?

Our town is emerging from the biggest crisis we have faced in decades. Residents should not be asked to spend their hard-earned money – as happened last time – cleaning up the waste left by these unauthorised encampments, or fighting the anti-social behaviour.

As the MP and the Leader of the Conservative Group on Harlow Council, we have secured an urgent meeting with the Essex Police Commissioner to ask what measures Essex Police will take to stop any incursions over the summer, there must be zero tolerance without equivocation towards illegal encampments.

Whilst there are significant powers available to the authorities to deal with unauthorised and illegal encampments, as MP, I will be asking the Government to strengthen these still further.

The powers are coupled with the 135 new police officers in Essex this year and the extra £23 million for Essex Police announced in January to crack down on anti-social behaviour and make our streets safer.

We will do everything we can to do what’s right for our town, now it’s the turn of Harlow’s Labour Council.

Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow

Cllr Andrew Johnson, Leader of the Conservative Group on Harlow Council

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4 Comments for Letter to Editor: Harlow Tories ask questions over Labour decision on unlawful traveller encampments:

2020-07-18 09:09:38

Readers should be aware that the question posed in February refers to one raised by a member of The Harlow Alliance Party. We were surprised that this was not followed up by members of the Conservative at subsequent meetings of the Council's Cabinet, seeking information/assurances that legal action would be taken in July and if not why not. I feel sure residents will want to know what happened to the legal advice available in February and what was the reason for the change of heart since then?

Tony Edwards
2020-07-19 11:10:35

When a QC advises a Council that they will lose a particular case in Court - what should a Council do? Press on regardless of costs or heed the QC's advice? The Council rightly took the QC's advice. It doesn't mean the matter is closed. The Tories could be far more helpful if they could persuade Essex County Council to fulfil their obligations; to provide and properly manage their traveller sites instead of considering selling off them off. And Robert Halfon's comment regarding an extra 135 Police would be laughable if it wasn't so deliberately misleading, for he knows that over the previous 8 years the Tories have cut the Essex Police force by over 600 Police officers and 300 PCSOs.

tony D
2020-07-19 13:32:09

Typical Tory cheap trick by attempting to jump on a stationary bandwagon and falling off. It’s simple incredibly that the local tory party assumes that any injunction will last forever when the solution is in the hands of the Tory run county council. The council did put in another application to extend the injunction and at the time we felt we had a good chance of success. Since them and due to other court proceeding the council was updated and advised that the opportunity to retain the injunction was slim. The solution to this challenge is that the Tory county council have a duty to provide short term temporary site to enable the travellers to stay in one area for a limited period of time only. If the Tory run county council would provide these site it enables the police and others to move unauthorised camps set up to these areas. The question should be asked of the county council by the local Tories but they won’t. Easier to blame others rather than your own. It’s such a shame that our Tory local county councillors are silent and not speaking up for Harlow.

2020-07-21 16:07:54

About time that someone, or another told the truth about this mess. So, when the invasion of our area begins who will wager that crime figures will escalate, because, over the last few years, and our police will acknowledge, that certain types of crime in our area have decreased.

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