I have written regularly in the Observer about how we can reduce the number of unauthorised traveller encampments.
Since I was elected as Police and Crime Commissioner in 2014 it is one the most common issues why people contact me, especially in Solihull.
The number of unauthorised traveller encampments in the West Midlands have more than doubled in the last five years and community tensions have escalated too. At a summit I hosted last week I identified this could increase in Solihull further if decisive action is not taken.
Last week I brought together the region’s seven local councils, with the police, traveller groups and local MPs to continue to push for improvements on this subject.
In the last year real progress has been made and many boroughs have seen a reduction in the number of encampments and a big reduction in clean-up costs. Last year there were 414 unauthorised encampments across the West Midlands, down from 499 the year before. However in Solihull the number increased from 21 to 38. The biggest fall was in Sandwell, the only borough to have so far installed a transit site for travellers.
By installing a site Sandwell now has unlocked greater police powers under the law, meaning that those breaking the rules can be banned from the whole borough for three months.
The number of encampments in Sandwell fell from 84 in 2016 to 33 last year and the clean-up costs fell from £250,000 to £10,000.
Most other local councils are following Sandwell’s lead, but there are no plans to do so in Solihull.
The danger of not doing so may mean that the problem moves away from the Black Country and Birmingham and towards Solihull.
This is an issue that also requires leadership from the combined authority and the Mayor. We need a common approach so we don’t just shunt unauthorised traveller encampments around the West Midlands. That will help no-one.
I am going to keep up the pressure on this issue. It is too important not to.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner