Tackling travellers in Southend deemed ‘too dangerous’

An injunction which would ban all unlawful traveller encampments in Southend would not be possible because the number of incidents recorded in the town is too low, a council boss has claimed.

Independent councillor Martin Terry, who oversees public safety in Southend, said there is no way a court would consider granting the ban.

He compared Southend’s situation of 18 illegal encampments over the last 18 months to Harlow, which was granted an injunction in 2015.

In the last 18 months, the west Essex council area recorded 109 incursions, which was not considered enough to extend the injunction at the Court of Appeal.

Mr Terry said: “We now have a full log of incidents and there has been 18 incursions in a year and a half.

“When we compare that – there has been talk of how Harlow had an injunction – well we’ve had 18 in 18 months. In Harlow, they had 109 involving 69 caravans and 280 people.

“So, in reality we get a very specific problem pop up at similar times of the year. We have nowhere near the problems they have in other towns.”

The councillor went on to point out that Bromley Council obtained an injunction in 2018 but had it pulled in January in an appeals court hearing when campaign group London Gypsies and Travellers argued it unfairly targeting a section of the community.

Judges in that case called borough-wide injunctions “inherently problematic”.

Southend’s Conservative group has been urging the council to try to obtain the injunction for more than a year but have faced criticism from rivals who claim the party is using the issue politically.

Council officers have also pointed out that a failed attempt to get an injunction would be costly to the taxpayer.

Conservative David Garston said during Thursday’s meeting it is the council’s “job to look after residents” but accused the Labour-led administration of finding reasons not to tackle to problems caused by illegal encampments.

He said: “This problem has escalated out of all proportion.

“It is all very well to say we are trying to make politics out of this, but because the administration is finding every reason why they shouldn’t do anything about the problem it is attacking us instead.

“The Government is only as good as the opposition. A strong opposition needs a strong cabinet but what are we getting here? ‘Oh, it couldn’t be enforced anyway, it’s much worse elsewhere’.”

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