The Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, which covers Milton Keynes, has said MK’s two Tory MPs need to step up and do more to tackle issues with travellers as “the fault lies firmly with parliament.”
Cllr Pete Marland, Leader of MK Council, had written to Mr Stansfeld to ask for extra police resources to help tackle increased levels of unauthorised traveller encampments in Milton Keynes this summer but Mr Stansfeld, the elected Conservative PCC who is paid £85,000 a year, has written back saying that he is unable to offer more help because the current laws covering this issue are so weak, and tells Cllr Marland he should lobby the City’s two Tory MPs for action.
In his letter Mr Stansfeld says:
“Both Councils and police do their best to co-ordinate their efforts, at considerable cost and waste of time and effort. The underlying issue is the weakness of the law in this area.
The fault lies firmly with parliament. We need proper laws around this, and your MPs should be lobbied to push for far tighter rules around illegal traveller encampments. This is not just a Thames Valley problem, it is a national problem, and must be addressed as such.”
MK Council has moved on around 70 unauthorised encampments since June. Recently residents have complained about anti-social behaviour, alleged crime and cable burning associated with encampments. MK Council are looking at using possible measures, including court orders, to tackle the issue.
Cllr Marland said: “Local police and MK Council are doing what we can to tackle unauthorised encampments, but even the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner has admitted that we have our hands tied behind our back when dealing with unauthorised encampments and other illegal behaviour.”
He continued: “MK Council has worked with the police to move on around 70 unauthorised encampments since June, but the process is slow and costs a fortune. It often seems like a game of cat and mouse and is hugely frustrating to ourselves and, more importantly, to residents. We have agreed to fund physical barriers to some sites, and we’ve increased funding to tackle environmental crime such as cable burning and fly tipping that can be associated with sites. We are also looking at ways to tackle this issue, such as court orders, but they can be difficult to get, take time and cost a fortune.”
He concluded: “I would have hoped for a more proactive response to be honest, but he does raise a significant issue. I know residents are frustrated and rightly ask what is being done. I’m frustrated because while we are doing what we can, what we can do is limited by the law as it stands. It is time we had proper legislation to deal with this issue. The Tory Police and Crime Commissioner is clear that “the fault lies firmly with parliament,” as councils and police don’t have enough powers to act as quickly as we, or residents, would like and calls on his own colleagues to do more.”