Removing unauthorised traveller camps in Solihull cost taxpayers nearly £200k - The Solihull Observer

Removing unauthorised traveller camps in Solihull cost taxpayers nearly £200k

Solihull Editorial 2nd Oct, 2018 Updated: 2nd Oct, 2018   0

ALMOST £200,000 of taxpayers’ money has been spent on removing unauthorised traveller encampments in Solihull over the last two years.

A total of 38 camps on both council and private land have been moved on in 2017 and 2018 – which includes legal and clean-up costs.

But Solihull has so far dealt with only 13 encampments this year which the council claims proves its strategy is working. There were 25 last year.

Despite this, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson launched fresh calls for local authorities to introduce transit camps which strengthen police powers to move travellers on.

But transit sites have been opposed by a number of Conservatives including Meriden MP Caroline Spelman.

She has instead called on a ‘co-ordinated’ approach across West Midlands Combined Authority members to prevent the knock-on effect of travellers being restricted from one area and moving to land in neighbouring authorities.

She said numbers of camps have risen in Wolverhampton due to Sandwell’s transit camp.

She also claimed numbers had gone down in Solihull because of improved defences against travellers in its parks and green spaces.

She said Solihull has good facilities for travellers – including several authorised camps and pitches.

“There is very little difference in practice between a transit site and an authorised site,” she said.

“We need to have a better idea of who is pulling their weight by providing such facilities.

“We need the combined authorities working together – we need to balance the needs of the settled community with the travelling community.”

Solihull’s cabinet member for stronger communities Alison Rolf said: “We have developed a comprehensive strategy to manage unauthorised encampments, which involves working closely with our communities, the police, the legal system and other local authorities.

“Transit sites are an option we might look at but we are unsure how effective they would be.

“However, our experience from working with authorities across the region and nationally is that transit sites are not the complete answer to stopping unauthorised encampments.”

Mr Jamieson chaired a summit last month to discuss the region’s approach to the problem.

In his column in last week’s Solihull Observer, he warned Solihull could see a rise in traveller encampments if it does not get a transit site and other neighbouring council areas do.

He said: “I am bringing the police, councils and travellers groups together again, so we can make progress on the issue of unauthorised travellers’ encampments. This requires us all to work together.

“Sandwell council has led the way by introducing a transit site.

“It has caused a massive reduction in the number of unauthorised encampments in the borough and is saving the authority money.

“I am pleased that other authorities are planning to follow their lead and introduce sites too.

“By doing so the law allows the police to act in a much more robust way, and offenders who break the law are banned from that borough for three months.”

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