Substandard and uncoordinated services, poorly informed policies and weak organisational arrangements typify many local authorities approach to gypsies and Irish travellers, a study published yesterday has found.
The main council service departments, such as housing and homelessness, fail to tailor their services to travellers in the same way as for other members of the public, the Commission for Racial Equality study reveals.
Many sites are in “polluted environments”, with facilities “well below the standard expected in social housing” and authorities fail to allocate responsibility for them at sufficiently senior level.
The study found local authorities “appear not to understand” that gypsies and Irish travellers are an ethnic group and have particular cultural needs and nearly half of councils with public sites say they have not done anything to promote good relations between travellers and others in the community.
Over two thirds of authorities have had to deal with tensions between travellers and other members of the public but many “have not considered the possibility” that tension may be connected to their failure to provide and manage sites.
The commission found 76 per cent of authorities have policies on enforcement but only 27 per cent had policies on providing sites.
CRE chair Trevor Phillips said: “The only sustainable solution, with benefits for everyone in the community, is sufficient, suitable legal sites – just 500 acres would be enough to meet all site needs. We found a consensus on this across government, with the Local Government Association and the Association of Chief Police Officers, so it’s ludicrous that the cycle of unauthorised sites, eviction and hostility can’t be broken.”
Gypsies and Irish travellers inquiry from www.cre.gov.uk