Conservative Policy on Gypsies and Travellers

The Conservatives today publish unworkable plans for dealing with the highly sensitive issue of unauthorized Gypsy and Traveller sites by giving police a power of arrest for intentional trespass. They also mean to dispose of Human Rights protection, missing the point that backing down on rights for unpopular groups means that the prospects would also be minimized for others, such as the elderly in social care.

The proposals miss another point, for as many councils have demonstrated, these explosive situations are capable of small-scale solution in ways which relieve community tensions and ensure Gypsy and Traveller communities have access to basic health and education services.

The measures councils are taking also save money. Councils currently spend £18 million annually on evicting Gypsies and Travellers from unauthorised sites, yet case studies demonstrate the benefits of sufficient legal site provision and the creation of trust: council spending on evictions drops, in one instance from £200,000 to £5000 annually; Council Tax paid by Gypsies and Travellers creates a revenue source.  

Human rights issues are presented in Conservative policy as the flaw in the current system, yet experts tell us that most Gypsy and Traveller planning decisions are made on planning grounds, not on a human rights basis.

But the real human rights issue is much harder edged: the life experience and life expectancy of these communities is hard to disregard once you have the information, for Gypsies and Travellers are among the most deprived groups in Britain in terms of access to healthcare and education. This remains true despite the efforts of successive governments. Health is poor – estimates have put average life expectancy as low as 50 years – and Gypsy and Traveller children have the poorest outcomes of any group in success at GCSE level. Gypsy and Traveller mothers are 20 times more likely than the rest of the population to have experienced the death of a child.

These needs are best met on authorized sites, which can be established with the good will of settled communities provided the ground work is done to build good relationships. Many local authorities have been leading the way on this too, establishing well managed sites that allow communities to live together and follow their respective lifestyles without conflict.

Forcible removal of people from sites does not solve the problem of their accommodation or welfare. It is most probable that these proposals will cost local authorities more money and simply promote conflict and force movement with little chance of making a positive difference. Some people need to have a group to blame and these policy proposals will feed their prejudices. Conservative councils are amongst those modeling a positive approach and it will be unfortunate if their experience is ignored by the approach taken as a result of this policy paper.

    1. Del says:

      I have only just noticed this site and accompanying postings.

      Dave quoted here should be ashamed of his ignorance. You judge a scoiety by how well the weakest and most vulnerable are catered for.

      When governments enter into debates about when and where not to apply Human Rights legislation, we all potentially suffer. Think back to the early 1930s when Hitler began offering reasons why Jewish people should not be offorded the same legal protection as the rest of the population. The discriminated group soon grew to include, the disabled, homosexuals, etc.

      Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are a dynamic community and are actually very different minority groups. Ignorance leads poorly educated Brits to brandish all GRT as Traveller, when the actual image in people’s minds is that of the New Age Traveller. This group is neither Gypsy nor Traveller by ethnicity.

      When a British government begins questionning who deserves human rights in the UK, BE VERY AFRAID!

    2. Jon says:

      This very well said but also very naive. We like on an island and we our population is growing at a rate that will see more and more apartments and less green space. The chosen life of a gypsy will end. It’s just a case of when. This county cannot afford to provide land for traveller and gypsy families to live on ground level, when a growing percentage of the UK population has to live in apartments, without access to green space.
      Gypsy families are not forced to live the way they do. They could join the rest of us. Their choice means they expose their children to health problems and a lack on continuity with their education. If I were to behave in such a way my children would probably be taken away from me.
      Not all sub cultures can survive in the 21st century and if you do the math on the expanding UK population and gypsy population on our small island….. This one will end to. It’s just a case of when.

    3. Jon says:

      Most taxpayers experience of travellers is not good and so it’s not surprising that thgeir view is biased. Also It’s inevitable that the children’s education is below average. If my child repeatedly changed school then so would his. A choice has been made by travellers and I’m afraid that unless they pay their way in this country, those that do will not be overly sympathetic.
      I also think that some of the people above need to think about what being racist actually means as it now seems that a taxpayer who cares about his local area and has an opinion is a racist. Grow up … and stop being so melodramatic.
      Gypsies may have been around for a long time …. but so has Tax. Subcultures come and go … that’s life. Tax and all the benefits it brings to us is here to stay.

    4. Rickie says:

      It is important to remember that these people have lived in the UK for hundreds for years (Irish travellers for almost a millienium). These people have a right to services and settlement provisions as much as anyone else.

      Suggesting these individuals “choose not to have a stable home or job or send their children to school” is proposterous and demonstrates that Dave is less than an authority on the key government issues surrounding gypsy and traveller’s…

      It may be interesting for you to know Dave that the NHS estimates that their are actually 7 sub-groups within the travelling community each with thier own cultural identity , with many differences between them even in the languages they speak. As with in every social group around the world I don’t expect that everyone of them is perfect but It is important not to tarnish the all with the same brush (in the same way that it is important for people to understand that all sheltered, middle aged men living in rural areas in the UK are not all casual racists for example) New Age Travellers are the only group who have opted for this alternative lifestyle in recent years and the rest have lived this way for centuries. Travelling is in their blood and this point is clearly proven by the large amounts of individuals forced to live in bricks and mortar accomodation suffering high rates of depression and anxiety. A way of life should not be forced upon individuals as this has been proven to have serious implications. Many travellers living in housing use the analogy of feeling like a caged bird.

      A Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) attitude is what has lead to many settlements being closed leading to travellers and and gypsies being forced to live on road sides and unauthorised sites. With poor facilities, santitation these people suffer with high infant mortality rates and their life expectancy is estimated to be more than 10 years less than the national average. Nobody on this earth deserves to be marginised and disriminated against to the extent that gyspies and travellers have.

      I think Dave has also overlooked the fact that providing Gypsies and travellers with sufficient site provisions not only benefits them but it also unables local authorities to monitor and control social issues and allows the individuals themselves to make a contribution, seeing as they usually have to pay rent to private land owners anyway.

      Just for the record I have had a significant amount of first hand experience with travellers and gypsies, since school age up to now. I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that many of the people I have had contact with have been amongst the most caring , considerate and respectible individuals I have ever come across. I can assure that many of the moral values that gypsies and travellers have are often far more respectible than those in many other social groups. They have low divorce rates, they take care of the elderly members of the family and treat these individuals with the utmost respect and they discourage sex before marriage. I feel that the rest have society could learn an awful lot from the travelling community.
      The bottom line is that discrimination against these people is deep set, as Dave has clearly demonstrated, and the associated issues will not be resolved while the public are led to believe media hype, created in order to sway the public opinion on political parties and their legislation.
      As a friend said to me recently “giving people The Mail to read is like giving fat people doughnuts.”

    5. Aviva says:

      Evictions deprive the children of school and a stable life.Gypsies have very strong morals and family values.Many Gypsies have University degrees.Educate yourself,then you won’t be dumbstruck next time Gypsies enter the pub.You may even make friends!;-)

    6. Aviva says:

      It is unjust and extremely offensive to talk about a group of people in such a way.In which way are people scared to behave “normally”?Do you mean that their normal behaviour is racist?How would they behave if a Black family moved to their street?

    7. Aviva says:

      It saddens me to read the clearly racist comment of Dave.Unfortunately,it is because of this ignorant attitude that many settled communities hold irrational fears/prejudices against Gypsies/Travellers.Clearly,Tory policy is trying to win over BNP voters.

    8. cathay birch says:

      are village loves us!!!!stogursey bridgwater and wont have a word said against us!!!i have a letter from the parish council saying so. we get on well with all the local folk around here.keep us on our legal council sites by signing this.cathayb

      please help gypsies by signing the petition below.many thanks cathayb

    9. Dave says:

      I’m sorry, but although the policy may be flawed I expect that the vast majority of people do not want travellers living anywhere near their houses on either official or unofficial sites. It is not just where the camps are located, but the impact they have on the surrounding areas.
      I’ve seen regulars in the pub all shut up and be afraid of behaving normally when gypsys/travellers walk in. The crime and anti-social behaviour that follows in their wake should never be underestimated.
      I’d like to ask the author if they have ever lived next to a traveller camp? Have the “experts” you quote (without attribution) ever done so? Until you have, you really have no idea what you are talking about.
      And as for them being deprived…that is their choice. They choose not to have a stable home or job or send their children to school. The taxpayer is expected to fund this lifestyle?
      And (finally) who are these “many local authorities” who achieved harmony? Are there studies you can quote with evidence from the residents that this is the case?

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