No grounds for blanket ban on Travellers in Southend says council leader

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Southend’s Labour leader is resisting demands for an injunction banning Travellers from pitching up in Southend, insisting there is not enough evidence to justify the move.

Councillor Ian Gilbert spoke out after the council announced plans to seek a Section 77 order through the courts to move on travellers illegally camping off Snakes Lane in Eastwood.

Senior council officials say a borough-wide injunction is being kept under review, but there was insufficient evidence to justify the move last summer.

Mr Gilbert rejected renewed calls from the Tories calling for the borough-wide injunction, suggesting it would not be permitted by the courts and would put “tens of thousands” of taxpayers’ cash at risk.

He said: “It has been about a year since we began collecting evidence, but the fact is there have been very few incursions over that time and certainly few that have caused significant problems.

“When you compare the amount of problems we have had to those in other boroughs that have got an injunction, we have experienced nothing like the same volume of problems that they do.

“We are keeping it under review but unless we have a significantly large number of incidents, the legal opinion is there is still not grounds for an injunction.”

Almost a year ago, the Conservative Group urged the council to introduce an injunction but it was rejected due to the lack of evidence.

Councillor Dan Nelson (Con) said: “The first priority of the council should be to protect our residents. In this instance it has failed.

“Unlike other councillors who are using the situation to cover their own failure to put residents first, our position has also been clear, we want an injunction on traveller incursions so we can protect our residents.

“This has been dismissed by the Labour-led administration and now that the courts are closed, the council finds itself completely powerless to protect its residents.”

St Laurence ward councillor, Mark Flewitt (Con), added: “Residents have had the sale of their homes fall through, they are afraid to leave their front door and they have lost faith in the council who seems to have abandoned them in their moment of need.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter