West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson held a summit on Friday 21 September to try and tackle the issues surrounding unauthorised traveller encampments. The event will brought together the police, local councils and groups representing travellers. 

The summit follows-up from a  similar event held by the PCC in February 2017.

During the summit:

  • Councils confirmed that in addition to Sandwell’s transit site, four more councils are now actively considering introducing transit sites, which will potentially be operational in 18 months, unlocking further police powers.
  • Councils renewed their commitment to have a joint set of protocols when dealing with unauthorised encampments.
  • MPs attending the summit will also continue to press parliament for improved legislation.
  • A regional working group is looking at the potential to share staff and resources when one council is particularly under pressure from unauthorised encampments.

Last year (2017) there was a small decrease in the number of unauthorised encampments – falling to 414 – compared to 499 in 2016. There is expected to be a small fall again this year, with 244 reported up to August 2018. The PCC is clear that more work still needs to be done.

One of the key recommendations from the last summit was the introduction of transit sites, so that stronger police powers can be enacted. In Sandwell, where a transit has already been introduced, they have seen the number of encampments fall from 84 in 2016, to 33 in 2017, with 17 so far this year. The PCC is calling on other authorities to follow Sandwell’s lead.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, said,
“Effectively dealing with unauthorised traveller encampments is a really important issue that requires us all to work together even more closely.

“Sandwell Council have led the way by introducing a transit site. It has caused a massive reduction in the number of unauthorised encampments in the borough and is saving the authority money. I am pleased that other authorities are planning to follow their lead and introduce sites too. By doing so the law allows the police to act in a much more robust way, and offenders who break the law are banned from that borough for three months.

“I am pleased that other councils are following their lead.

“There is still much more to be done, but there is clear progress being made across the West Midlands. This is a hugely important issue that I will continue to push on.

“I also believe this is an issue that requires the Mayor to step up to the plate and help to co-ordinate the regional response, so we don’t just shunt encampments from one borough to another.”

Dealing with unauthorised encampments is costing councils hundreds of thousands of pounds each year. The amounts vary across local authorities, with Wolverhampton facing costs of around £420,000 this year, compared to £238,000 last year. By contrast, Sandwell has seen the greatest reduction in cost, which they largely credit to their transit site. This is a reduction from roughly £250,000 in the year prior to the PCC’s summit, to an ongoing anticipated cost of £10,000 a year associated with unauthorised encampments. The cost of establishing their transit site (£173,000) has more than paid for itself within the first year. Costs in other areas also vary, with Birmingham at around £250,000, Coventry at £64,000, Dudley at £55,000 and Solihull at £140,000 last year.

A webcast of the summit can be found here

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