Press Advisory ahead of Dale Farm Vote

Today, March 14, at 6:45 pm, residents from Dale Farm will issue a
statement outside the Basildon Council meeting (Towngate Theatre, St.
Martin’s Square, Basildon SS14 1DL).   There they will be joined by
supporters who will also participate in a press briefing.

Basildon Council is set to vote today on whether to authorise £18
million pounds for the eviction of the Traveller community at Dale
Farm. The Council are coming under fire for spending millions of
pounds on a discriminatory eviction at a time when they are cutting
public services.  A special council meeting will commence at 7:30 pm
to vote on the eviction.

Dale Farm is a former scrapyard that a group of Travellers bought and
now call home.  It is currently a community of around 1000 people, the
largest in Europe, and was featured in the tv hit “My Big Fat Gypsy
Wedding”.

Additional information ahead of the vote (a press pack is also
available at: https://dalefarm.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/dalefarmpresspack1.pdf
)

The Council will decide whether to take out a loan and set aside 8
million pounds for the eviction, nearly a third of the council’s
annual budget.  This does not include a contingency fund of 10 million
pounds in policing costs which might also have to come from the
council’s budget. Taxpayers have already spent £2.5 million on legal
and other related costs, and now face the prospect of paying £18
million during a time when council services are being cut.

Even the Council’s own report admits: “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.”

In the report, the external auditor warns that cost overuns “would
seriously undermine and potentially put into jeopardy the Council’s
medium term financial sustainability and put continued service
provision at risk.”

“Dale Farm residents are willing to move, at no cost to Basildon, but
need the Council to identify  suitable land,” said Richard Sheridan,
chair of the Gypsy Council.  However, thus far, the Council has failed
to authorise an alternative site. The Dale Farm Housing Association
has put in a planning application to develop a model alternative
mobile park on land belonging to the Homes and Communities Agency.

Gratton Puxton of the Dale Farm Housing Association said, “Councilors
have a clear choice: to back the proposal of Tory leader Tony Ball and
go ahead with an eviction operation costing £18m  – or to suspend
direct action to allow alternative accommodation to be found for the
homeless.

Various support groups, together with Dale Farm Solidarity
https://dalefarm.wordpress.com   are organising human rights monitors
in case of eviction.  Hundreds of people have pledged to form a human
shield around Dale Farm if it’s threatened with bulldozing.

The Dale Farm community has been in existence for several decades,
includes over a hundred school children and is closely linked to
Wickford Catholic Church.  The Catholic, Anglican and Wickford Life
Church all oppose the eviction plan, as do Basildon Labour and Liberal
parties.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the United
Nations (UN) have both raised concerns about the Council’s position
and consider that direct action should not be taken until suitable
alternative accommodation for those affected by the operation to move
to, in the form of pitches, is available.

“The planned eviction is not about protecting the green belt,” said
Natalie Fox, of Dale Farm Solidarity. “Dale Farm was a former
scrapyard when Dale Farm Travellers bought it”.  Ironically, the
eviction costs are being blamed as one of the reasons Basildon Council
is controversially selling off playing fields in the green belt, an
allowing developers to build on them to increase their value.

“The planned eviction is not about equal treatment under the law — On
the contrary, 90% of Traveller planning applications are initially
rejected compared to 20% overall,” said Ms. Fox.

The skyrocketing cost of the eviction is coming at a time when as many
as 100 Basildon Council jobs are likely to be axed to help the borough
cope with budget cuts which will leave it £2.3million short. Basildon
is also cutting £505,000 to disabled services.

Dale Farm residents will speak at 6:45 pm in front of Towngate
Theatre, St. Martin’s Square, Basildon SS14 1DL. The council meeting
will take place at 7:30 pm

Contacts:
On behalf of Dale Farm:
Mr Richard Sheridan, president of The Gypsy Council (07747417711)
Mary Ann McCarthy (07961854023).
On behalf of
Dale Farm Housing Association: Grattan Puxton (07888699256)
Dale Farm Solidarity: Yoshka Pundrik (07583761462)

Notes to editors

[1] A copy of the report to council can be found at
http://www.basildonmeetings.info/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=216&MId=3859&Ver=4

[2] 90% of traveller planning applications are initially rejected
compared to 20% overall — Commission for Racial Equality, Common
Ground (2006)

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