The Labour Group on Basildon Council has always held the view that the amount of money required to enforce what is basically a planning issue is both excessive and unaffordable. The costs have risen beyond the 3 million initially stated and now the Council has approached the Government for additional funds. There is also the suggestion that should the Government not provide the several million more needed then the Council would consider borrowing the money to pay.
The Council has always had to balance the needs of all residents against its ability to fund its services. We simply do not believe that council tax payers should pay millions of pounds on an enforcement issue. To compound matters the Council is about to embark on a cost cutting exercise which puts a further strain on its ability to deliver services to residents, whilst all the time it is ploughing millions into a planning issue.
In addition to this there is the humanitarian side of enforced eviction of men women and children some of whom are elderly, frail and in ill health. I wont go into the complexities of the Traveller life style but it is and continues to be a matter of considerable concern that the action the council proposes to take could lead to the death of some of the most vulnerable residents at Dale Farm.
Another issue to consider is where will these people go because like it or not they wont just disappear and will have to find another site to live on.They own the land at Dale Farm and whilst they have contravened planning regulations by developing this site they have built homes for their families of the type they feel comfortable in. You may be aware that only half the site is subject to planning enforcement as the rest has permission for development. Some may argue the principle of development of this area has already been established in which case the council could have re designated the site subject to enforcement, which could have avoided all of the issues that we are now faced with. In my view it is regrettable that neither of the two main parties who have controlled the council over the last 15 -20 years didn’t do this.
I do understand that our view is not a populist one and that people feel very strongly both for and against the action the council is taking.
But we stand by the decision we took several years ago and will continue to oppose the mass eviction of the residents of Dale Farm.
Cllr Lynda Gordon
Leader Labour Group