Calling for stronger laws to tackle unauthorised encampments
As many local residents will personally know, the issue of Unauthorised Traveller Encampments has been a serious problem in my constituency of Birmingham Northfield and across south Birmingham in recent years. The encampments we have seen in the area have often been accompanied by anti-social behaviour and have created huge amounts of mess. This is made even more frustrating for local residents that too often the police and council undertake evictions, only for travellers to pop up 5 minutes down the road.
In the light of the scale of the issues we’ve been experiencing in the West Midlands I have been calling for a review of where police and local authorities powers could be more effective. After considerable pressure from myself and other MPs the Government announced a consultation on the powers for dealing with unauthorised development and encampments.
While I welcome this decision, any consultation must be a real exercise that brings forward proposals to address the issues we’ve been experiencing in the West Midlands. That is why today I have joined the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner and 14 West Midlands Labour MPs in writing to the Government to set out recommendations for stronger laws to tackle unauthorised encampments. We believe that these recommendations offer opportunities to reduce the harm caused by some unauthorised encampments and would benefit our region. You can find out more about our letter here – https://www.westmidlands-pcc.gov.uk/news/news-2018/pcc-and-mps-call-on-the-government-to-give-police-and-councils-stronger-powers-to-deal-with-unauthorised-traveller-encampments/
It in no way undermines the seriousness of this issue, however to emphasise that only a minority of the travelling community cause problems and give the whole community a bad name. There must be a balance between the needs of both the settled and the travelling community, where the rights of one group do not negate those of another. Currently tensions, harm and costs relating to unauthorised encampments are excessively high which is why we are urging the Government to take meaningful action.
In the meantime, however, remember that the Police can only act if incidents are reported to them. So if you see any violent, anti-social or threatening behaviour please do contact the police as quickly as possible on 101 or report online here https://www.west-midlands.police.uk/incident-report/. Obviously, if it is an emergency, you should phone 999.