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£28k for council job to help out travellers
2:00pm Sunday 1st September 2013 in News
A COUNCIL has been accused of abusing taxpayers’ money by recruiting a £28,000 officer to improve relations with travellers–nearly two years after the eviction at Dale Farm.
Basildon Council wants to employ a community liaison officer to start an engagement programme so travellers and local people can live in harmony in the Crays Hill area.
The post is offering a salary from £25,201 to £28,404 for the “challenging and demanding”
role, adding to the £5million the authority has already spent dealing with Dale Farm.
But critics have blasted the new role at a time when the council is cutting other services.
Kerry Smith, Ukip county councillor for Basildon, said: “There are 34 legal pitches there and after this officer’s national insurance, pension, travel expenses and other costs, it will be costing about £1,000 per pitch.
“Are the travellers even paying that much in council tax?
“This is pure abuse of tax payers’ money to look after a very small group of people. Will they employ liaison officers for every different group in the community?
“Thirty-thousand pounds could be used for another receptionist in the Basildon Centre, or to save the luncheon clubs for the elderly.”
Geoff Williams, leader of Basildon’s Liberal Democrats, added: “It’s a bit late. If this had come two years ago it may have been a bit better. It’s a lot to be spending when the council is cutting other things.” Following the Dale Farm eviction, in October 2011, a large number of travellers had to move to a legal pitch in Oak Lane, but it became oversubscribed.
Fifteen pitches are being created in Gardiners Lane South after that was given a £1million grant from the Homes and Communities Agency.
Matthew Brindley, policy manager for the Irish Traveller Movement, said: “For the officer in question it would be an impossible balance to liaise with these communities in these current circumstances.
“We welcome better integration, but the council has to address some of the root causes here of under provision.
“I strongly disagree with the remit of the liaison officer being solely with the section of the community who have authorised accommodation.
“If this is the case, it is discriminating against those who are having to live on unauthorised sites.”
Terri Sargent, Basildon councillor for community, said the post was being funded from an “underspend”.
She said: “It is a one-year fixed term post which is being funded from an underspend.
“The role will help to improve and maintain the relationships of the gipsy and traveller community living on the Oak Lane traveller site with both the surrounding settled community and with a range of partners such as those in the voluntary sector."