One of the local issues landing in my inbox in recent weeks, with increasing frequency, is one which many readers will be aware of: that of unauthorised traveller encampments which have been springing up across the constituency.
Nothing upsets and frustrates people more than to see an illegal camp on their doorstep for days on end, often returning a few weeks later. Each time leaving in its wake a trail of litter, rubbish, dog fouling and human waste to be cleared, as well as flytipping to be removed, and the site to be secured.
One Friday evening after my surgery, I met with dozens of local residents to listen to their frustrations and concerns that the current system leaves them feeling helpless, and that despite the best efforts of the local Councillors and Council the process is simply leading to a game of ‘Cat and Mouse’ which is not fair on those cleaning up the mess, nor the taxpayers who ultimately pay for it.
Whilst acknowledging how the relationship between travellers and the settled community has changed over the years, it’s time to look again at the law, and seek sensible but sensitive approaches for changes to be made.
These illegal encampments frequently arrive on weekends and evenings, and move on just before a court order is about to be enforced. Local Authorities and the Police need additional powers and responsibilities to help move unauthorised encampments more quickly and out of hours services to deal with issues that arise at weekends. It is time to review the welfare checks process too, so that when moved within a local authority area, authorities do not have to undertake the same checks on the same people, every time.
On a separate note, on July 16 the Department for Culture Media and Sport launched its public consultation as part of the charter review for the BBC. This occurs every 10 years with the current charter expiring at the end of 2016.
The review is designed to ensure that the BBC – its funding and output – remains relevant and up to date. There has been much discussion in the media about the future of the television license. The number of households without a television is growing. Many people now access programmes through BBC ‘catch up’ on iPlayer where there is no requirement to pay a fee or have a licence.
The funding of a Public Service broadcaster and the programmes it provides in this digital age are now to be decided. It is a service for all of us as members of the public and it is right that we should all have the opportunity to have our say on its future. The Government’s consultation is open and can be found here.
The consultation closes on the October 8 and I would urge everyone to take part as this review will set the future of the BBC not only for the next ten years but will also decide its direction in a swiftly changing world of electronic media.
A version of this article was originally published in the Walsall Advertiser and Sutton Coldfield Observer on August 6.