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Traveller Site Fund

Volume 838: debated on Wednesday 15 May 2024

Question

Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government how many bids were received for the £10 million Traveller Site Fund 2022/23, and of those how many were (1) successful, and (2) unsuccessful.

The £10 million Traveller site fund closed on 13 June 2023. Overall, 97 bids for funding were received from 66 local authorities across England, nine local authorities were successful and 16 sites received a share of the £10 million fund.

I thank the Minister for her Answer. Those low numbers are extremely worrying. If every local authority provided sites for Travellers as a matter of course, their needs would be catered for and the police would not need to waste time moving them on. How many of the successful bids were for new pitches? Have those pitches been delivered, and are they in use?

What is being delivered are 10 pitches on one new transit site, 225 pitch refurbishments over 14 sites, and 14 pitch refurbishments and an extension to one permanent site. Those projects are already in development according to their plans.

My Lords, given the continued shortage of enough local authority sites, will the Government consider allocating further rounds and higher amounts of the Traveller site fund? Otherwise very many children are going to be moved away from their schools, people are going to be evicted—and they are usually considered homeless when they are—and friction arises when they find somewhere to live, because there are not enough sites.

We do not intend at this time to put any more money in as we did with the £10 million. However, local authorities can go to the affordable homes programme, which has £11.5 billion. That fund is being used by local authorities to provide pitches where they need them.

My Lords, I am all in favour of providing suitable sites for Gypsies, Travellers and those with a nomadic lifestyle. However, when the first official count was carried out in July 1979 there were a total of 8,065 Traveller caravans, and local authorities were urged to make suitable provision. There are now authorised sites for 21,000 Traveller caravans, but the number has gone up fourfold to over 25,000. What are the reasons behind this sudden demand for a nomadic lifestyle in England?

My noble friend asks an interesting question to which I do not have the answer, but it is probably very complex and there will be numerous reasons for it. Interestingly, last year the number of caravans on unauthorised encampments decreased by 21%, which gives me the feeling that those people who take this nomadic lifestyle are using authorised camps to live in.

My Lords, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act was the ideal opportunity to help to address the inequalities faced by the Traveller community. Since the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, the then Minister for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, announced a cross-departmental strategy for tackling these inequalities in 2019, no plan has been announced. When can the Traveller community expect to hear what the Government’s strategy is for improving outcomes for Travellers?

I thank my noble friend Lord Bourne for all his work when he was a Minister in my position. I do not have an update on the Bourne review, but I will certainly write to the noble Baroness and the House with an update on it.

My Lords, next month is Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month, and I hope that all Members of your Lordships’ House will take the opportunity to learn a little more about the many centuries of history of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in the UK. In that light, I am sure that the Minister is aware of the High Court judgment this week against the Police Act 2022 that said that 12-month bans from an area for Gypsy and Traveller people were incompatible with Article 14 rights within Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Noble Lords may remember that a significant number of your Lordships’ House voted against that provision in the Police Act. There now has to be a legal review. Can the Minister tell me what the Government’s plans are for it?

No. That is a very recent decision. I do not know that there are any plans but, certainly as soon as we have them, I will let the noble Baroness know.

My Lords, I will hark back to a Question we had yesterday: is there any correlation between Traveller sites and fly-tipping?

I do not know of any research on that. I am sure my noble friend will have his views on it and others will as well. I do not think we have any definite evidence on that so I would rather not make any further comment.