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Gypsies and Travellers

Volume 712: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

Statement

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Shahid Malik) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government have today published their first annual report on Gypsy and Traveller policies, as set out in the response to the Task Group on Site Provision and Enforcement for Gypsies and Travellers.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Library of the House.

The Government are committed to a fairer, stronger society, in which disadvantage faced by all members of society is tackled. Fairness means ensuring that those Gypsies and Travellers who have no authorised place to stay have the same opportunities as others to a place they can call home, together with the same access to education, health and other services. It means also that residents in local communities should not have to cope with the unauthorised developments and encampments that can be the consequence of a shortfall in authorised sites.

The report confirms that the framework put in place by the Government provides the tools to enable local authorities to tackle both the shortfall in site provision, and instances of unauthorised developments and encampments where they occur. The Government have published clear guidance to enable local authorities and other agencies to make effective use of the wide range of enforcement powers available to them. We now look to local authorities to be proactive in taking the lead in addressing the shortfall by identifying, in consultation with local communities, appropriate locations for sites which will have the twin benefits of creating homes for Gypsies and Travellers, and reducing the number of unauthorised developments which can be the cause of local community tensions.

The identification of authorised sites will also enable local authorities to reduce the costs of enforcement action related to unauthorised encampments, as well as providing access to even stronger enforcement powers when there are available pitches to which unauthorised campers can be moved. The savings from the reduction in enforcement action can then be deployed to other services to the benefit of the broader community, or reduced levels of council tax.