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Friday, 8 July 2011

Newbury Town Council has been criticised over an appendix to a report on planning for traveller sites (UK)

Newbury Town Council has been accused of racism after publishing statements on travellers “worthy of the British National Party (BNP).”

The offending paragraphs appeared in an appendix to a report on planning for traveller sites prepared for Monday night’s the planning and highways committee meeting.
They were initially published on the council website but were removed when the storm broke.

They stated: "We do not believe that travellers should be treated as a separate ethnic group or that policy towards them should be governed by such considerations. Because of the undesirable effects of the travelling way of life on receipt of social services, especially education, we do not consider that travelling in the sense used in this paper can be sustained in the long run.

“It is gradually disappearing and that trend should not be discouraged. We obviously agree on the measures to prevent abuse of the planning system by travellers.”

The comments were condemned by the general secretary of West Berkshire Minority Ethnic Forum, Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera who pointed out: “Roma, Romany Gypsies and Irish travellers are now all recognised to have protection under the Race Relations Act as they have been finally recognised as minority ethnic communities in law.

“The intolerance shown towards these communities is still very obvious, and is even enshrined within some of the policies and procedures of our public authorities. Are these somewhat limiting and discriminatory views the opinions of the town council as a whole, or merely a few individuals? Whichever. it is very concerning.”

Local Labour Party spokesman Richard Garvie said he interpreted the words to mean that travellers should not have equal access to health and education services and branded the comments “worthy of the BNP.”

The wording of the report also sparked a heated debate on the forum at our website, Newburytoday.co.uk ahead of Monday night’s meeting.

Before the meeting began, Anthony Pick (Con, St Johns) revealed that he was the author of the offending report and added: “I apologise for any offence which my remarks may have caused and I withdraw them without reservation.”

Committee vice chairman Adrian Edwards (Con, Falkland) spoke next, saying he was responsible for submitting the report to committee and adding: “I would like to apologise that I failed to pick this up.”

Council chief executive Graham Hunt then offered a “full and unqualified” apology, adding that the final responsibility for what was published rested with him.

He pointed out that the offending report had been removed from the website and promised “equality training” would be put in place.

Mr Hunt added: “Newbury Town Council welcomes any initiative which will improve facilities for the travelling community.”

Mr Garvie said afterwards: "For the council to have to issue three apologies at the start of a meeting shows how serious an incident this was.”

Newbury Today