Gypsies call for task force on sites

The government should set up a five-year task force to address the
shortage of appropriate sites for gypsies and travellers, a leading
gypsy rights campaigner said last week.

Charles Smith, chairperson of the Gypsy Council for Education,
Culture, Welfare and Civil Rights, made the demand at a London
conference on developing services for gypsies and travellers.

Smith said:”We need a task force that includes gypsy people, paid
as equals.”

He also said that local authorities were failing to maintain the
few sites that were currently available. “Sites are in disrepair.
This would not be tolerated in other social housing systems.”

A spokesperson for the deputy prime minister John Prescott said he
would consider the views of the conference.

She added that last month the gypsy site refurbishment grant for
2003-4 had been extended by £8m to enable local authorities to
deal with unauthorised encampments and to provide transitory sites
to gypsies and travellers.

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