Council pays thousands tackling illegal traveller camps every year

PUBLISHED: 07:32 19 June 2018

North Somerset Council wants to evict travellers from Ashcombe Park.

North Somerset Council wants to evict travellers from Ashcombe Park.

Archant

The amount paid by the local authority to evict travellers has halved in the past year, but thousands in public cash is still spent in tackling unauthorised settlements.

Travellers moved into Weston's Clarence Park last summer.Travellers moved into Weston's Clarence Park last summer.

North Somerset Council’s costs from illegal traveller camps have reduced by 42 per cent from 2016/17 to 2017/18, despite numerous groups setting up on public land in Weston.

In 2017/18, North Somerset was forced to pay £8,632 to deal with unauthorised encampments, compared to an eye-watering £14,936 in 2016/17. Much of the costs were spent enlisting bailiffs, who executed court orders obtained by the council.

But these totals do not reflect the true cost paid by the council, with clean up work included in the North Somerset’ waste removal and fly-tipping contract with Glendale.

Traveller camps were set up in Weston’s Beach Lawns, Clarence Park, Ashcombe Park and Locking Road Car Park last summer, causing much disruption and mess.

Travellers moved onto the Beach Lawns in 2017. Picture: Nick Page HaymanTravellers moved onto the Beach Lawns in 2017. Picture: Nick Page Hayman

One camp’s resistance to leave Baytree Rec in August prompted hundreds of people to protest against the group’s presence before police eventually evicted the caravans.

But despite the high-profile settlements causing much frustration for Westonians and the council – with several days required in most cases to force the groups to move – the authority’s bills for tackling travellers breaking the law have been slashed.

A council spokesman said: “The significant proportion of costs are associated with engaging private bailiffs to carry out the eviction, which is very rare – once or twice a year.

“The costs fluctuate depending on the size of encampment, number of bailiffs to safely evict and whether tow trucks or other vehicles are required.

“The costs associated with waste removal and cleansing are incorporated into the waste contract as part of fly-tipping removal and are not separately costed.

“Direct team resources for dealing with each encampment vary considerably but typically a minimum of two hours of officer time.

“Where eviction is required this can be more 20 hours per encampment, with an estimated cost to the council of between £150-1,500.”

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