Basildon council set to spend £8m evicting Travellers

11 Mar 11
Almost £20m of public money could be needed to evict one of the country's largest Traveller sites
By Mark Smulian

11 March 2011

Almost £20m of public money could be needed to evict one of the country’s largest Traveller sites.

Basildon Borough Council has been locked in a decade-long dispute over the green belt site at Crays Hill.

It said the eviction of about 400 occupants could cost £8m, equivalent to almost one quarter of its budget, while Essex Police have estimated their costs at £10m.

Central government has so far refused to give the council any financial help, though the Home Office is considering a police request.

A report from council leader Tony Ball, for a meeting to be held on March 14, said the eviction could cost £6.5m, plus £1.5m in case of further litigation, compensation and claims.

This would be financed from £3m of efficiency savings made by 2013, with the remainder taken from reserves.

Ball said: ‘This will have a significant impact on the council’s finances, and will seriously constrain the council’s ability to provide quality services to all residents of the borough.

‘However, I consider the council has little choice but to commit these resources.’

Failure to do so would undermine planning law enforcement, and have ‘implications for cohesion in the wider community amongst Traveller and non-Traveller residents,’ he added.

The council has been under pressure from other residents to evict the Travellers and the case has attracted national attention, including a television documentary.

‘Essex Police have estimated their costs to be in excess of £10m in the event of the “worst case” scenario emerging,’ Ball said, referring to potential attempts by outside protesters to stop the eviction.

Basildon first disputed the Travellers’ use of the site in 2001 but was thwarted until 2009 by legal challenges.

It has given an undertaking in the High Court to provide for the health, education and care needs of evicted families.

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