Trade unionists call on London council to meet GRT housing needs
A south London trade union branch has called on the London Borough of Wandsworth to act now and meet its responsibilities towards its Gypsy, Roma and Traveller residents.
The call for action by the Battersea and Wandsworth Trade Union Council – called a motion – has been passed by the national Unite union and trade unionists and activists are urging all local union branches to adopt it and to put pressure on their local authorities.
The motion and its background are copied in full below:
Gypsy, Roma and Travellers have lived in England and practiced a nomadic way of living since before the 16th century. Nomadism is an important feature of the histories and cultures of Romany and Irish Travellers as well as enabling people to find work and economic security.
The Government has failed to accommodate the nomadic way of life in England. According to Government statistics, 1035 Traveller caravans are located on unauthorised encampments although this is thought to be an underestimate. The Government has now brought in new policing powers to evict Gypsy, Roma and Travellers from unauthorised encampments and to criminalise trespass. They can now be sent to prison, fined or have a family home taken away from them.
In October 2021, the charity Friends Families and Travellers wrote to all local authorities in England to enquire about pitch availability and waiting lists on their site. The research found that there were:
- only 13 permanent sites and five transit sites with any available pitches for Gypsy and Traveller families in all of England,
- only 59 available permanent pitches in total for Travellers in all of England,
- only 42 available transit pitches in total for Travellers in all of
- at least 1,696 households on waiting lists for pitches on Traveller sites in England.
The Battersea and Wandsworth Trade Union Council (BWTUC) calls on the LB Wandsworth to ensure Gypsy, Roma and Traveller residents are living in secure and safe housing.
The BWTUC urges LB Wandsworth to assess Gypsy, Roma and Traveller need for permanent and transit accommodation and, in accordance with that assessment, introduce targets for the provision of permanent and transit housing for those groups.
The BWTUC urges borough MPs to support the re-introduction of pitch number targets and the imposition of a statutory duty on local authorities to assess and meet the housing needs of these groups.
The BWTUC urges borough MPs to support the provision of ring-fenced central government funding for local authorities to meet the assessed needs for housing of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller including the provision of dedicated sites in LB Wandsworth.
The BWTUC urges borough MPs to support the repeal of legislation that criminalises trespass and unauthorised encampments and to resist the introduction of any further such legislation.
The BWTUC urges LB Wandsworth to seek any available funding for the provision of housing for the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and to use such funding to meet the assessed needs of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in LB Wandsworth.
BWTUC press release/TT News
(Photograph © Natasha Quarmby)