Report published on progress made to improve the West Midlands response to unauthorised traveller encampments

Following a summit held by the Police and Crime Commissioner in September, a report has been published on the progress made in responding to unauthorised encampments. The event brought together the police, local councils and groups representing travellers.

The PCC and councils have now published a report pledging to:

  • Increase the number of transit sites, unlocking further police powers while giving groups a legitimate place to stay.
  • Agree a joint set of protocols when dealing with unauthorised encampments.
  • Continue work with MPs to improve legislation, especially on cross border working and to better protect private businesses.

 

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 in 2017 was the introduction of transit sites, which give police stronger powers. In Sandwell, where a transit has already been introduced, they have seen the number of unauthorised 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 the minority who cause problems for everyone 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

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