Dudley councillors clash over controversial traveller proposals
Sparks flew at Dudley Council’s latest cabinet meeting as Councillors have clashed over controversial plans to tackle unauthorised traveller camps in a Black Country borough were discussed.
Labour-run Dudley Council recently had announced it was scrapping proposals for a temporary travellers' site in Budden Road, Coseley – which had been approved by the previous ruling party. Dudley Council leader Qadar Zada said the authority had carried out another review into the site after regaining control of the authority and deemed it unsuitable.
He said the council is now proposing a range of measures to help resolve the issue including identifying a permanent transit site and borough-wide injunction against travellers. They will also work to improve the safety of sites vulnerable to travellers and bring in dedicated enforcement officers.
While Councillor Zada’s cabinet overwhelmingly backed his proposals at the meeting on Monday, opposition councillors slammed the review as ‘doomed to failure’.
Opposition leader Councillor Patrick Harley said: “I think this is a hastily prepared report. I believe this change of direction will come back to bite you. The report is flawed from start to finish. The report is flawed, what they are recommending as a deterrent for incursions has time and time again been proved to fail. You can make our parks and open spaces like fortresses but they will still gain access. Our proposals were to spend £280,000 over three years, against spending £450,000 which we spent over three years previously. Absolute nonsense. Their proposal is now is to spend £600,000 over a three-year period – it is just absolute nonsense. It will not work. I know for a fact senior officers of this authority do not support this change in policy. I know that for a fact.”
Conservative Councillor Karen Shakespeare said: “Officers are asking for a borough-wide injunction - this is something we have looked at previously. Only three months ago Walsall was refused an injunction without a transit site. Offiers knew that without a transit site you cannot get a borough-wide injunction.
“Travellers don’t stop at barriers, gates or bushes - they stop because there is a chance they will be moved on in a couple of hours. That is what we were giving the residents of this borough.
“All the boroughs around us are getting transit sites because they are working on it. We are now like the bullseye in the Black Country. We will now become a magnet and a target for travellers.”
Councillor Zada said: “In terms of my view on travellers and illegal encampments I am categorically against it. We have always wanted a permanent travellers' site. We are working on a travellers' site for as soon as possible.”
“The reality of this is the opposition is doing a very good job of polishing a turd, you can roll it in glitter but it will still be a turd – and that is what we are going to put right.
“It is a sticky plaster solution you came up with from a sticky plaster administration. I am glad that our proposal is comprehensive, robust, will tackle a range of issues - it is unfortunate that what we heard at this meeting is that they have admitted they may have actually chose the wrong site, we have heard a lot of we would have done that - but actually it wasn’t in the report.
“Therefore it is a sorry state of afairs to blame the officers for a lack of political leadership which is what this task needed.
“It is not correct [that senior officers are not supporting our proposals]. In the report it is clear that it has the support of very senior officers.”
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