'Open season on ethnic minorities': Government accused over illegal traveller site crackdown

 

Politicians have been accused of sparking an “open season on ethnic minorities” after the Government issued new guidelines to tackle illegal traveller sites.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was accused of “grandstanding” and reinforcing “negative stereotypes” about travellers and gypsies after saying councils must act more quickly to shut down unauthorised encampments.

New guidance from the Department of Communities and Local Government outlines the legal powers councils and landowners have to remove unauthorised traveller sites, protest camps and squatters from both public and private land, as well as tackling the mess caused by the sites.

Joseph Jones, chairman of the Gypsy Council, likened Pickles' actions to the Home Office's controversial clampdown on illegal immigrants in London using a van telling them to go home, and the furore over Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom's “bongo bongo land” comments about foreign aid spending.

“It's creating tension, it's a negative thing to do,” he told Sky News.

“At the moment it seems like a theme. Recently we have had the Go Home campaign, then we have the bongo bongo thing going on.

“It seems like open season on ethnic minorities.”

Mr Jones dismissed as “nothing new” the summary of powers sent directly to local council leaders, which the Government hopes will give local residents a stronger voice in challenging their local authority to take action.

Mr Pickles has revoked Labour's Equality and Diversity in Planning guidance, which he said told councils not to take enforcement action against unauthorised travellers, and suggested planning rules should be applied differently to individuals depending on their background.

Powers that can be used include temporary stop notices to stop and remove unauthorised caravans, pre-emptive injunctions that protect vulnerable land in advance from unauthorised encampments and possession orders to remove trespassers from land.

The DCLG said the move is aimed at preventing another incident like Dale Farm, where a long-running legal battle was fought before bailiffs moved in to evict travellers from the site in Essex.

At the peak of the operation, 308 officers were involved, including those brought in from the Metropolitan Police, Thames Valley, Avon and Somerset, Kent, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire under mutual aid arrangements.

The clearance, which resulted in violent clashes, followed a decade-long row over unauthorised plots on the six-acre site.

The total cost of the clearance was £7 million, with Basildon Council spending £ 4.8 million.

Mr Jones said he did not support illegal sites and called for more legal sites to be created for travellers.

He added: “Local authorities already know how to manage unauthorised encampments, they don't need the Government to tell them how to do it.

“This latest statement Mr Pickles has put out doesn't have anything new in it. It doesn't have any new powers or anything like that.

“It just seems to me like a bit of grandstanding.”

Mr Pickles denied the powers were an attack on the traveller community and said £60 million was being made available to local authorities for new legal sites.

He told ITV's Daybreak: “We inherited a situation where the number of illegal sites had gone up four-fold and what we expect them to do is obey the law like you and I do.

“It does not give people the right to come on to a green belt...and to trash it.

“We're treating travellers' families exactly the same way as we're treating the rest of population.

“The idea that is somehow an attack on the traveller community is not true.

“This is a very good deal for travellers."

PA

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
Life and Style
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Year 2 Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Bognor Regis!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Year 2 Teacher currently need...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits