New report warns government is failing to comply with social charter
Europe raps UK for failing to provide Traveller sites
Gypsy and Traveller families’ right to housing is not effectively guaranteed in the UK which means the government is breaching its housing obligations under a European charter, a new report claims.
The European Committee of Social Rights has warned that the UK government is ‘not in conformity’ with article 16 of the European Social Charter - the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection.
An ECSR report, published at the end of January, highlighted the coalition government’s decision to axe regional spatial strategies, which set out the number of pitches each local authority needed, and end statutory obligations on local authorities to provide sites as areas for concern, as well as the high refusal rate of camping permits for Gypsy and Traveller families.
Although the UK government is not bound by any law to act on findings in the report, a spokesperson for ECSR said that the European Court of Human Rights can use the findings when making rulings on cases brought before it.
Lord Eric Avebury, a Liberal Democrat peer who campaigns for Traveller and Gypsy rights, said he was unsurprised by the findings and called for more central government involvement in allocating sites.
According to the July 2011 Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Court, 4,000 caravans were on unauthorised sites in England - 21 per cent of the total.
Lord Avebury said: ‘There is land. The Homes and Communities Agency has land which would be available for Gypsy sites, but without any pressure from the government to local authorities - the ingredient that is missing - then things won’t happen.’
The ECRS reports on housing in member states every four years and the government has been asked to report back on progress made in highlighted areas in 2016.
A spokesperson for the Communities and Local Government department said it was aware of the findings and would respond in the next ECRS report. He said: ‘The government is encouraging local authorities to provide appropriate sites for Travellers and offering incentives to do so. That’s why we have committed to a new £60 million fund to provide new authorised pitches over the next three years.’