Tony Ball, leader of Basildon council, was nominated for two very different awards for his role in the eviction of Travellers from Dale Farm.
The eviction of hundreds of the Dale Farm Travellers last October was a mass, state-sanctioned programme of enforced homelessness. More than eighty families were forced from a piece of land which they owned, by riot police in an operation which saw supporters of the Travellers shot with Tasers and residents left needing hospital treatment. The few people who have been allowed to remain, have seen the entire area torn apart, with open sewage leaking into the mud amidst the remains of chalets destroyed by bailiffs. One such woman is in her seventies and suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which, according to medical evidence, leaves her with a lung capacity ‘barely compatible with life’.
Basildon council spent about £7 million on the eviction at a time when it was making cuts in other areas, and council leader Tony Ball was at Westminster City Hall on 27 February, having been nominated for the Local Government Information Unit’s ‘Leader of the Year’ award for his role in the operation. On finding about his potential achievement, Ball described it as a ‘great honour’, going on to explain, ‘I was aware I had been nominated, but did not expect this. The operation was an extremely challenging time for the council as a whole and other agencies involved.’
Unfortunately for him, he did not end up winning. But he did receive another award instead. This second ‘Community Wrecker of the Year’ award was given in his absence outside Westminster City Hall by Dale Farm Solidarity and the Traveller Solidarity Network who explained that ‘to say he deserves an award for tearing apart a community, leaving families homeless and in desperate circumstances is disgraceful. Tony Ball does not serve communities, he wrecks them.’