By Sally Alexander
“An unprecedented mass eviction of a whole community”: that’s how a Labour councillor described the “direct action” operation voted through by Basildon’s Tory council on 14 July.
By a majority of three, with every opposition councillor voting against, the council voted to back Tory leader Malcolm Buckley’s plans to remove 220 “unauthorised” caravans, housing more than 120 traveller families, from the Dale Farm and Hove Field districts. In doing so it authorised the expenditure of something like £3 million, plus huge legal costs, to create what a local human rights group has described as a “disaster” and what Wickford Primary Care Trust has warned will mean a trail of “trauma and destruction” unprecedented in local authority history.
Under Buckley’s plans, the eviction will be carried out by “Gypsy specialists” Constant & Co, a cowboy outfit of bailiffs notorious for their brutal evictions.
Labour members of the council have been demanding that the money instead be spent on providing alternative land for the families in question. The Tories have flatly refused to even consider this, despite the fact that alternative sites have already been found and despite the Government’s offer to provide funds to facilitate such a move — but not to help with the eviction. In other words, Buckley and co. are wasting literally millions of local taxpayers’ money to fund their brutal vendetta against the Dale Farm travellers.
It also looks as if reporters will be banned from the site during the eviction on grounds of “health and safety”— just as they were at the Twin Oaks eviction, in Hertfordshire, in January this year, when Constant & Co. were also used. The Tories do not want the public to be informed about their blatant act of low intensity state terror.
Dale Farm residents and their supporters packed the public seating and overflowed into an adjoining room as the council took its decision. They have applied for judicial review, but if this is not granted the eviction will go ahead some time after 31 July. Hence plans for for a campaign of public defiance, including a human chain around the Dale Farm site to prevent eviction.
• For information about how to get involved, and to send messages of solidarity, contact Grattan Puxon, Dale Farm Housing Association secretary, on 01206 523 528 or email email@example.com.