Authorities warned: do not treat travellers like pests

The government has hit out at local authorities for pushing responsibility for gypsies and travellers on to departments dealing with 'rats and other pests'.

Michelle Banks, head of the gypsy and traveller unit at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, has slammed local authorities that have handed responsibility for gypsies and travellers over to environmental health departments.

Speaking at a Chartered Institute of Housing seminar on Tuesday, Ms Banks said: 'How many [councils] have got the responsibility in the environmental health department along with the rats and other pests? This is not where it should be.'

Councils must make sure housing and planning departments take the lead on developing strategies and ensuring there is adequate provision of sites, she said.

Ms Banks also blasted councils that failed to consult gypsies and travelers when putting together strategies to work with them. 'Is there any other area of public policy where you would not consult the client group?' she said.

The Housing Act 2004 contained new provisions for dealing with gypsies and travellers. The ODPM expects to issue delayed guidance on its implementation in January. It is expected to advise councils on how they should work together to ensure the travelling community is not pushed on a minority of authorities that are seen as taking a softer line.

Ms Banks' comments came as it emerged that a gypsy and traveller site managed by Novas is still without electricity almost a year after the supply to the site was cut off.

Residents of the Star Lane site in Orpington lost their electricity supply on Christmas eve last year following a fire at the substation feeding the site.

But 12 months on Novas has not yet reconnected the supply. Many residents have been rehoused, but some remain on the site.

A spokesperson for Bromley Council said it had lobbied Novas to ensure the site was fully functional. 'For quite a while now we have been concerned at the very least about the conditions at the Star Lane site and have written to Novas expressing our views that the conditions there are unacceptable,' he said.

Maria Donoghue-Mills, chief executive of Novas, confirmed that the Star Lane site was still lacking an electricity supply. She said it had not been restored because a new substation needed to be built.

Those residents who had chosen to remain at the site were supplied electricity through their own generators, she said.


Shame that the author of this piece cannot give the People the courtesy to put the name as if should be, i.e. Gypsy/Gypsies and not gypsy/gypsies. So much money is being spent by the state which is invariably tax payers money on training those writers and still, after years and years at university, they cannot write properly or is it, as I and the IRG assume, in fact a purpose snub to our People. I would like them see doing this with Jews, Moslems or even French or Germans. Maybe I could just call them english?