Headlines: December 12th, 2007

More money is being made available to help local councils meet the housing needs of Gypsy and traveller families. Authorities will also get new guidance on dealing with anti-social behaviour where Gypsies and travellers are the victims or perpetrators.

The Communities Minister, Ian Wright, announced funding of 97 million pounds as part of a package of measures to cut the number of unauthorised sites in inappropriate locations. Under the fund, councils can apply for Gypsy and Traveller Site Grants for new and refurbished sites. The grants will cover the full cost of schemes that provide additional pitches or bring pitches back into use.

The commitment to deal with unauthorised sites follows a report from the Task Group on Site Provision and Enforcement, which called for a consensus around the need for authorised sites. Other measures to be undertaken following the report will include guidance on tackling anti-social behaviour to support local authorities and the police; a Gypsy and Traveller Summit at which ministers will meet representatives to discuss their concerns about the definitions used for gypsies and travellers for housing and planning purpose and improved monitoring with an annual report to Parliament.

Ian Wright said the funding would help councils deliver more and better sites and reduce the 18 million pound a year bill for enforcement. “It is important that councils ensure there are enough authorised sites for travelling communities. A good supply of legal sites can break the vicious circle of evictions that is costly in terms of both local tensions and taxpayers’ cash,” he said.