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Time for Action, Not Point-Scoring, on Unauthorised Encampments

November 27, 2008 1:23 PM

As the Mayor of Bedford continues his public spat with Bedford and Kempston's Labour MP, the Liberal Democrats have repeated their call for a comprehensive, lasting solution to the problem of unauthorised gypsy and traveller encampments in Bedford Borough.

Bedford Borough Lib Dems' proposal for the most vulnerable public open spaces to be protected from unauthorised encampments has resulted in protective works being carried out at sites across Bedford including Wentworth Drive in Putnoe and Longholme Way in Kingsbrook. The Lib Dems want this important work to continue as one element of the following list of essential actions:

• Provision of permanent and transit site(s), where Gypsies and Travellers can go instead

• A change in the law so that the council would only have to make checks (such as health and education) once, which can then stay valid for a larger geographical area and time period. This would avoid having to restart the assessments after every move.

• Continued work to provide physical protection of spaces where possible and appropriate

• Pressing the police to use the powers they have to the full

• The council to remove unauthorised gypsy and traveller encampments as quickly as possible

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Putnoe Ward Sallyanne Smith said: "It is in everyone's interests to find a lasting solution to the problem of unauthorised encampments. The current merry-go-round of just moving travellers from one inappropriate site to another every few days is totally unacceptable. The problem will not be solved via squabbling and political point-scoring, however. What is needed is comprehensive, effective action.'

"Our proposal for the protection of vulnerable open spaces was a good start as one part of that action. We also need all agencies involved, including the council and the police, to work together to remove unauthorised encampments as quickly as possible. There is a shortage of legitimate temporary and permanent sites, so the council must prioritise work to provide these. A change in legislation is needed as well, so that welfare checks do not have to be made repeatedly for the same people. Once we get these actions in place, we will at last be working towards a sustainable solution."