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In my constituency, we have both private and local authority-owned Traveller sites, but those are not the subject of this debate; this debate is about the kind of unauthorised encampments that many of us will have had a series of, summer after summer. In my constituency many of these encampments cause significant disruption, misery and loss of amenity for local residents. The people in the encampments do not just leave behind rubbish; day after day, local residents have to put up with people defecating and urinating on playing fields and play areas, which is completely unacceptable.
As has rightly been said, part of the solution to dealing with unauthorised encampments must be ensuring that there is authorised provision for Travellers. Since switching to Conservative leadership earlier this year, Dudley Council has identified a number of transit sites, the first of which should be available by next summer. However, as has also been said, we need a more flexible approach to the way provision is both assessed and made available. It is therefore right, particularly in areas covered by combined authorities, such as the west midlands, that those local authorities within the combined authority should be able to come together and have the assessed five-year supply of available sites at that combined authority level. Section 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 must then be adapted so that the police can deal with unauthorised encampments appropriately and move people to one of the authorised sites within the combined authority area, or preferably even within a reasonable distance nearby.
Of course, alongside the carrot there needs to be the stick, for the unreasonable and unacceptable encampments. There still seems to be a lot of confusion about the conditions in which section 61 powers can be used. Many police forces do not believe that it is appropriate or even legal to use powers that the statute seems to provide. We need more clarity on that and more agreement. If the Government can contribute to that process with new protocols that will not only make existing powers clearer, but ensure that any new powers that are added do not suffer the same risk of being completely ineffective because of the kinds of concerns I have mentioned, that would be a huge help.