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New Site's Secrecy?

Helen Jones's picture
By Helen Jones |  March 24, 2012 |

Why has Cllr JL Carter tabled a white paper to a meeting of the full Leeds City Council accusing the administration of ‘secrecy’ over plans to build a new site, or sites, in Leeds?

Here is how it’s being reported in the Yorkshire Post.

This is what I think. Mr Carter is a proud and charismatic man. He is used to having his way. He cannot accept that his policies have proved to be in error and that a steady groundswell of local opinion is coming to this conclusion. Mr Carter and too many of his fellow elected members of all political parties have bolstered their profile by repeated verbal ‘Gypsy bashing’ and fear mongering, which sadly does prove popular with a vocal slice of the local electorate. Mr Carter is just sticking to type and returning to what has worked well to sustain his political career in the past. There is no untoward ‘secrecy’ going on but perhaps there is an election on the way?

Cllr Carter, when he was Executive Board member for Neighbourhoods and Housing, sanctioned £2mil expenditure on shifting homeless Gypsies and Travellers around Leeds, much to the detriment of both the Travellers and the many settled people of Leeds who experienced (and continue to experience) loss of amenity and stress due to intermittent unmanaged and unauthorised encampments particularly on local greenspace and leisure facilities.

I have to mention here that although the camps are still unauthorised and unplanned, the management has got much better under the new Labour administration. Rate of eviction and therefore expenditure has reduced significantly; rubbish collection and sanitary provision has increased (thereby reducing stress to local settled people); at last, moves to carry out appropriate enforcement against specific acts of nuisance or anti social behaviour (rather than just constant eviction of whole families) are being considered; and, most importantly, dialogue between the local roadside families and the city council is significantly improving.

So of course Mr Carter’s policy of ‘shift em, shift em fast, no matter the cost’ is being shown up as not having been effective or the only way to support residents of Leeds in the face of unauthorised encampment. Mr Carter’s methods may have ‘played to the crowd’ of his voters (many of whom didn’t experience unauthorised encampments anyway) but it did nothing to end the expenditure or animosity between our various communities. Mr Carter does not care about the problems of unauthorised encampment experienced by local settled Leeds people. Most, if not all, of them are not in his constituency. He cares about how the public perceive him. He cares about being re-elected.

The problem that the Leeds electorate need to consider is that the ‘shift em, demonise em’ approach does not solve the problems associated with unauthorised encampment and homelessness for either the residents of the camps, or of the houses.

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Helen Jones's picture

For anyone interested Cllr Carter withdrew his white paper in the face of overwhelming support for what they call 'substantive' amendments. ie it was so completely opposed (50+ vs 20) that is was better to withdraw his white paper than allow the amendments to stand.

It was very clear, listening to the debates, that the white paper was a mischevious attempt to gather headlines before the local elections. I'm delighted that it didn't get far.

Whilst commenting on the debate I should also add some surprise at who said what. Those who purport to support Travellers to often get their facts wrong, or waste their time making the wrong point, whilst those we might think oppose (such as those applying for injunctions) actually showed a detailed knowledge and understanding of the need for authorised sites. Interesting and surprising.