By Steve Chilton
TAXPAYERS in Coventry are footing a yearly £50,000 bill to clean up after travellers – while their own household rubbish collections are being halved.
Getting rid of the travellers’ trash and securing green field sites cost the council £49,000 in the last financial year.
And in the first six months of this year it has already cost a further £40,000.
With no sign of the travellers paying heed to barriers and trenches put in to thwart them, the bill since April last year is on track to soon top £100,000.
The cost of the clear-ups is revealed as Coventry City Council begins a controversial cut to residents’ weekly main “green lid” bin collection to fortnightly, in a drive to slash £1million from the budget.
Two years ago, almost to the day, the then deputy leader of the council warned travellers to stay away or risk having their caravans seized to pay for the clean-up.
The councillor, Phil Townshend, died shortly afterwards and the plan was never adopted.
Other measures were implemented, mainly bollards and digging trenches, but have not proved a barrier to the travellers.
Despite the council installing a metal gateway and bollards to prevent caravans entering the War Memorial Park, travellers have twice this year found a way in.
One of the recent incursions of the city’s public green space, at Tutbury Avenue fields in Cannon Hill, demonstrates how the cost racks up.
About 12 caravans breached a defensive trench running the length of the fields. Several wooden posts guarding a maintenance access point were ripped out.
The travellers spent more than a week on the fields using hedges as toilets and scattering waste, including children’s nappies and beer cans, over the local beauty spot.
The travellers were believed to be the same group which had set up site on a neighbouring field alongside the A45 the week before.
The Tutbury Avenue trench has now been re-dug more deeply along the whole 400-metre border and new posts and rails erected where the gap was breached. Posts and rails have also been put in along the field off the A45.
In addition to the clean-up and repair, the cost of taking court action to serve eviction notices adds to the bill, which ultimately comes out of the pocket of council tax-payers.
Travellers often choose to takeover a new site on a bank holiday, as happened in Cannon Hill, knowing that it will buy them time as councils will not be fully staffed and the legal notice to evict them will be delayed.
Local authorities are also bound to carry out welfare checks to ensure that none of the travellers has an illness or condition such as heavy pregnancy that might be affected by the eviction.
The eviction application is normally granted. But before it comes into force, usually about 7 to 10 days from their arrival, the travellers have moved on – leaving the council to pick up the rubbish and the bill.
John Blundell, councillor for Wainbody ward, which includes Tutbury Avenue, says the city needed to beef up its policy on the travellers’ illegal sites, and improve security and prevention measures.
“These travellers act as though they are above the law and have a complete disregard for people living here,” he said.
He wants council officers to investigate dropping the welfare check and, if possible, immediate court orders or injunctions to evict from any and all sites in the city.