Gypsy Council calls on MP Elwood for ‘positive solutions’ to Dorset’s Traveller camps

31 August 2016

The Gypsy Council has written to Tobias Elwood, MP for Dorset East, demanding “positive actions for positive solutions” after the MP clashed with local Police over an unauthorised Traveller camp in Dorset.

Joseph P Jones, of the Gypsy Council Co-operative, also accused Ellwood of aiding the local council and “passing the buck” over their failure to provide suitable stopping places for Travellers, saying that their actions had even meant that the Police had “taken flak” because they had refused to evict the camp.

Ellwood, councillors and some local residents called on police to "act immediately” when a group of about 20 caravans moved on to the recreation ground at Muscliffe the week before last.

However, Dorset Police refused and said it would only move the Travellers on in "exceptional circumstances".

Supt Mike Rogers said: "We will only move Travellers on in absolute exceptional circumstances, in a last case scenario.”

"In this situation, this has not occurred."

The Gypsy Council called for more dialogue with Ellwood MP, saying it was time to stop ‘winding up the general public’ and using Gypsies and Travellers as “political cannon fodder.”

The Traveller camp, on council land, has received negative’ attention in the local press, including some “horrendous” comments under articles on the Dorset Echo website, according to local Gypsy media campaign group DIACT.

Betty Billington, of Dorset Inter-Agency Concern for Travellers, said that they had been in negotiations with the Editor to get the comments removed.

The Gypsy Council put the blame for community tensions firmly on the local politicians and councillors because of the lack of permanent and appropriate transit sites.

“It is their lack of commitment in the provision of accommodation and transit pitches ever since the Caravans Act of 1968,” said Joseph P Jones.

“They have only had the last 48 years to get things right.”

A 2013 report found, while there was a need for 88 pitches across Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset, the total supply was eight.

Bournemouth Borough Council leader John Beesley said: "The council's position remains the same as it has done for the past three years.

"We do not believe that there are any suitable sites for a permanent transit facility within the Bournemouth boundary."

Ellwood has a history of acting against Travellers.

In 2011 he created a petition against three permanent sites proposed in Bournemouth that reached over a thousand signatures.

In 2013, Ellwood handed in the petition to the Government saying that there should be no Traveller sites in Bournemouth.

“This petition is designed to show how inappropriate building such sites on our green belt would be and I am delighted that so many residents from different political persuasions have responded by adding their names to this petition,” he said.

The Gypsy Council called on Ellwood and other local politicians to work for Gypsies and Travellers as well and not discriminate against them, saying that issues could be solved with cooperation.

“Our public servants are elected to represent everyone, no matter, their race, religion, gender or political preferences,” said Joseph P Jones.

 “They have no right to dogmatise or vilify any member of society for their lack of their commitment on provision.”

“Every Tom Dick and Harry seems to know where the wrong place is for the Gypsy and Traveller community, but at no time are we shown where the right places are.”

“Racially motivated comments achieve nothing, other than hostility, so now it's time to work with us, to solve this problem.”

“The Gypsy Council Cooperative may have a solution.”

“Come to the community and talk to us, rather than talk negative about us.”

(The picture of MP Tobias Ellwood was grabbed from his website by The TT and remains his copyright. Under copyright law, a news publication is allowed to use pictures integral to a news story in the public interest without the permission of the copyright holder, as long as the copyright holder is credited.)