COLUMNIST: Dozy’s Rambles – on travellers and Facebook

C150366-4 The tavellers site under construction
C150366-4 The tavellers site under construction

SO, West Sussex County Council, along with the other councils in West Sussex, has rolled out the ultimate plan to ensure travellers do not stay on highways, parks, car parks and school grounds ever again!

Really? Think again and look carefully at what has been organised. Don’t be fooled into a false sense of security.

A ‘transit site’ has been set up at great cost to all the councils in the area. This site will assist the police and local authorities in dealing with illegal encampments. What we are led to believe is that in future, police using legislation S61 will now use S62.

Has anyone really gone into this and is it actually going to work? The new site, close to Chichester, is set up to house a minimal number of caravans.

The way the law currently works, no authority can ‘break up’ an encampment. At the moment, most of the traveller groups that have been fronting up in the Adur and Worthing areas have consisted of 15 to 17 vans, far too many to house in the new site. Therefore, technically, they are still untouchable. The reason why they cannot be broken up is down to an EU ruling on human rights.

There is also a cost involved to the travellers concerned. Can anyone really see them wanting to pay to pitch up in a council owned and run facility, when they can just sit on council-run land in the centre of our towns and cities?

With the current state of play, council officers arrive at an encampment, then, by law, they have to carry out welfare checks and assessments of all those involved. The paperwork is then gone through by experts and then a decision is made on whether to tolerate the encampment or move it on.

They cannot be forced to move, unless a court order is in place or the police use S61 powers. Otherwise, the council has to apply to the court for permission to move the travellers on.

What usually happens is, on the day of a court hearing, the encampment will pull up their vans and move on, making the whole process a total waste of council taxpayers’ money and a waste of both police and council officer time.

To many travellers, this is a game. They need to move only a few yards and then all the council work has to be carried out all over again.

I really doubt the new measures will help anyone.

* I was reading that a policeman who posted a joke on Facebook has been given a final written warning. This actually makes 33 police and staff from the Metropolitan police who have been accused of misusing social media, leading to five being sacked.

Surely, the high-handed decisions of not just the police but many other employers who fire or warn their staff about their own personal Facebook views are out of order?

Is an employed person not allowed a personal life and allowed to have their own freedom of expression away from the chains of their employers?

I have been through this myself, when I was taken to task for putting jokes and comments on to my personal Facebook pages.

An enquiry was ordered into my behaviour. I argued that my Facebook is my own personal view and it was available for my friends only to see, it was not open to general view.

After a long and expensive enquiry, I was found not guilty and it was agreed that in fact I was correct to say the pages were mine and I am permitted to have a private life.

If anyone is worried about his or her social media pages, be very careful who can view. If on Facebook, make sure that you have your pages open to friends only.