Star comment: Review on illegal sites is overdue
It is a gross understatement to say that a review into our laws around illegal traveller camps is long overdue.
A minority of travellers have been causing havoc across the Black Country and Staffordshire for years.
Yet it has apparently taken until now for ministers to finally realise the impact that unauthorised encampments are having on our communities.
On one hand we should be grateful to many of our MPs, who have said 'enough is enough' after seeing first hand the devastation left behind by some groups of travellers.
But it imperative that the upcoming Government consultation on the issue is not simply a box ticking exercise.
READ MORE ON THIS SUBJECT:
- Ministers to consider illegal traveller camp crackdown across the West Midlands
- Why there is hope for tighter laws on traveller camps
There are two key elements that must be addressed.
The first is over whether existing powers are being used effectively by police and local authorities.
At the moment there appears to be a huge disparity in the way that the available laws are enforced.
Secondly, if new powers are brought in, what will they actually entail?
We must remember that the vast majority of problems are caused by a minority of members of the travelling community.
Some of the scenes we have seen across the region during this past summer are simply disgraceful.
There is never any excuse for dumping piles of rubbish in a public park.
It is almost laughable that travellers can get away with moving to and from sites just a few miles apart for weeks on end.
Residents are sick to the eye teeth of lawmakers pussyfooting around this issue.
Any new legislation needs to be geared towards bringing in stricter penalties for travellers who break the law.
Currently, it often seems like there is one law for travellers and another for everyone else.
This is where the Government needs to make the best use of the West Midlands Combined Authority.
Part of the devolution blueprint is to allow issues to be dealt with on a local level.
Under the guidance of its mayor, this region is quite capable of dealing with this growing problem.
Yes, we need to be respectful of the travelling community.
But if those who choose that lifestyle can not be respectful of others then they need to feel the full force of the law.