Below we reproduce a letter signed by campaigners and academics in protest at proposed funding cuts aimed at the Gypsy and Traveller communities.
The coalition government has arrived with a progressive and civil liberties agenda. But not for the UK’s most deprived and discriminated against minority ethnic group – Gypsies and Travellers.
Already the coalition government has reversed progressive policies giving incentives for local authorities to develop Gypsy and Traveller sites, by cuts announced in the Housing and Communities Agency (HCA) budget, cancelling all next year’s bids for sites. The Conservative Planning ‘Green’ Paper in February threatened to scrap Planning and Housing circulars which have started to give Gypsies and Travellers and Showmen a ‘level playing field’ in planning disputes with local authorities and planning inspectors.
The Conservative Party seems according to Eric Pickles to be determined to revive the ‘Gypsy Law’ of criminal trespass. This discriminatory law was derided when Michael Howard campaigned on it in 2005, but has reappeared as a policy for the Coalition government.
Detailed and comprehensive research throughout England in Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessments has identified targets for sites for Gypsies and Travellers and yards for Showmen. Many have been agreed with local authorities and progress was starting to be made. After years of inaction on sites a cumulative need has built up. The situation now is worse than ever and will only get worse without new provision. We face a future of more roadside and unauthorised encampments leading to inevitable community conflict and enforcement costs to local council tax payers.
We have to remember that Gypsy and Traveller families who have a travelling way of life have probably just 3,729 caravans on ‘unauthorised’ sites in the whole of England, with a further 13,708 caravans on council and private sites and ‘It is estimated that the entire Gypsy and Traveller population could be legally accommodated if as little as one square mile of land were allocated for sites in England’.
As university and independent researchers and campaigners we are calling on the Coalition Government, and David Cameron and Nick Clegg in particular, to think again about policies on Gypsies and Travellers and stick to progressive programmes based on civil liberties and fairness not the proposed policies of harassment and criminalisation of ethnic minorities, who the CRE (now the EHRC) in 2006 described as ‘the most socially excluded groups in the U.K. today’.
Yours, John Grayson (AdEd Knowledge Company and Sheffield Hallam University) Prof Thomas Acton (Greenwich University), Sarah Cemlyn (Bristol University), Marion Horton (Researcher AdEd Knowledge Company) Sarah Wilson (Research Assistant York University) Prof. Marjorie Mayo (Goldsmiths, London University), Dr Ryan Powell (Research Fellow, Sheffield Hallam University), Andrew Ryder (Researcher), Dr Margaret Greenfields (Researcher), Andrew Petrie (Researcher), Prof Gary Craig (Durham University), Dr Mick Wilkinson (Hull University), Dr Stuart Hodkinson (Research Fellow Leeds University), Jake Bower (Romany Broadcaster), Dr Chris Derrington (Researcher), Charlie Cooper (Hull University), Dr Will Guy (Bristol University), Dr Colin Clark (Strathclyde University), Jon Fox (Bristol University), Yvonne MacNamara (Director Irish Traveller Movement in Britain), Robert Vanderbeck (Leeds University), Dr Philip Brown (Salford University), Renny Mulhearn (Planning Rep Yorkshire Showmens Guild), Quintin Bradley (Leeds Met University), Daniela Hawryliuk (Sheffield Hallam University), Dr Kesia Reeve (Sheffield Hallam University) and Prof Margaret Ledwith (Cumbria University).