Over the last 18 months or so there have been a number of illegal traveller encampments in Harlow, more than 60 in total. Local people are quite understandably worried and affronted that some of these encampments have led to anti-social behaviour which many Harlow residents believe they would have faced prosecution for, had they committed .
Equality isn’t a one way street, rights under the law also mean responsibilities under the law, and equality means that applies to everyone.
The local Tory MP has started a petition calling on the council to apply for funding for more sites from a funding stream that is no longer open to applications and to take tougher action than the law allows the council to take. He’s written several letters to ministers who are members of the same government as he is. But as far as I can tell, none of those letters have helped bring an end to this issue.
Meanwhile, Harlow Council has been condemned by the local Tory MP who is busy dishing out blame to anyone within a 40 mile radius, just so long as it doesn’t touch him. So far he’s condemned Harlow Council, the police and even, somewhat bizarrely local trade unionists.
However much the Tory election machine shout and stamp their feet, it is the government he is a member of that needs to act.
Its interesting that the petition calling on Harlow Council everybody apart from the government to tackle this issue, doesn’t mention that it is just two years since the government introduced a new policy for Traveller and Gypsy communities. In it, the government says that;
“that plan-making and decision-taking should aim to reduce the number of unauthorised developments and encampments and make enforcement more effective”
The series of illegal encampments seen in Harlow over the last year and a half are a direct result of the failure of Tory run councils in Essex, Essex County Council and more generally the failure of the government’s policy as outlined above. Perhaps Robert Halfon should write himself a letter.
To those who say I should have been running around telling everyone how angry I was about these encampments I say, talk is cheap, empty words have not solved the issues behind illegal encampments.