The Communities and Local Government Department has announced new funding of £47 million for new and refurbished Traveller sites, said to provide 617 new and 167 refurbished pitches over an unspecified period [http://bit.ly/zBjDjv]. Forty of the pitches classed a 'New', in Bolton and Bassetlaw, are actually refurbishments, so the actual total of new pitches is 577, compared with the shortfall as indicated by the number of caravans on unauthorised sites enumerated in the count undertaken for the CLG in July 2011. At the end of the day there would still be 3,420 families legally homeless [http://bit.ly/wLNbOU], and that's not taking into account any increase in the caravan-dwelling Traveller population over the years covered by this programme.
Yet at the same time as marginally reducing the number of homeless, the Government are making it harder for Travellers themselves to get planning permission, and giving councils draconian powers to evict them from the 4,000 pitches they occupy without planning permission, even where they own the land as at Dale Farm and now Meriden. Kicking these people off onto the roadside without having any plans to provide them with alternative sites is an inhuman policy, the result of which is certain to be that the severe deprivation suffered by the Gypsy and Traveller communities will persist down the generations. It is a recipe for particularly severe harm to the children, whose education will be interrupted, in many cases permanently, and whose health, already the worst of any ethnic minority in this country, will be vdamaged still further.
Calls to five of the providers listed as receiving the CLG grants revealed last week that in only one instance had a funded site yet been identified, and none had been the subjects of planning applications. The providers all acknowledged that it would be a long and controversial process getting to the stage where a single pitch had been added to the total.