October 10, 2017
Burnham-On-Sea's MP reveals the true cost of tackling travellers

Burnham-On-Sea's MP James Heappey has revealed the true cost of tackling travellers during a House of Commons debate this week.

The MP spoke out ahead of a meeting with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, about tackling illegal traveller encampments.

Following a number of incidents across the Burnham-On-Sea area in recent years, he spoke about the impact that travellers are having on the local community during a lively debate.

He said: "I want to thank Sedgemoor and Mendip District Councils and Somerset County Council for the enthusiasm with which they provided me with information for my contribution."

"That tells us something about how big an issue this is for them. It is also an issue of real importance for my constituents, who have been angered again and again by illegal encampments."

"In the past two years, there have been illegal encampments in Berrow, Street and routinely in the car parks and sports club of Burnham-On-Sea. There have also been illegal encampments in Shepton Mallet and Brean."

Mr Heappey was keen to tell Ministers exactly how much this is costing councils in Somerset.

He added: "In June, just before the Glastonbury Festival, there was an illegal encampment near the festival site in Shepton Mallet. Mendip District Council moved as quickly as it could to initiate legal proceedings, but it still took 10 days."

"The cost to Mendip District Council was £27,745, and that does not include the policing costs of trying to escort them out of the town at the end of that illegal encampment."

"Additionally, Somerset County Council has told me that in the last three years it has spent nearly £25,000 on moving travellers on from the public highway and a further £6,000 on the clean-up costs afterwards."

"At every turn, there is an asymmetric cost—a cost to councils, Avon and Somerset Police, local businesses and the community, but no cost whatsoever to the travellers who have made the illegal encampment."

"We live in a beautiful part of the world, with a good local economy, but surely our liability for travellers cannot be unlimited or set simply by traveller demand? We must be willing to say what is a fair provision for councils to offer. We must reduce costs to local authorities or find a way to pass them on to the travellers who are illegally encamped."

Mr Heappey encouraged Ministers to find a way of making the process for removing illegal encampments quicker and cheaper for local authorities, saying that there can no longer be "one rule for the travellers and another rule for everyone else."


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