MORE needs to be done to tackle racism and discrimination against the Gypsy and Traveller communities.
That was the plea made by Conwy County Council councillor Paul Luckock at a cabinet meeting held recently.
Cllr Luckock said he had seen an email from a woman with Romany heritage, complaining to the council about racism during a debate on a replacement Local Development Plan (LDP), which will include future projects for Gypsies and Travellers.
It is hoped a Gypsy and Traveller working group with representation from the communities will also help form the LDP as the meeting also heard there had been “constant issues” with maintenance and repairs at the county’s dedicated site on Bangor Lane, Conwy.
But Cllr Paul Luckock said more needed to be done by to improve relations and change the culture within the council. Cllr Luckock told the meeting that the woman’s racism complaint was “upheld”.
But the council’s monitoring officer Peter Brown confirmed, that while a complaint had been made, it was “not correct to say” they were upheld.
Cllr Luckock said: “I welcome the governance arrangements, and obviously they’ve got to now bed in, but the scale of the issues, as you know, are really significant and unfortunately are not often talked about in the detail that they should be. And I think there is a further challenge in really changing the culture in Conwy County Council.”
He added: “The Welsh Government have now adopted the all-Wales anti-racist plan, and I think that needs to be very much taken forward robustly and rigorously because, as you well know, we have already had one this year where a Romany traveller, a lady, made a complaint of racism…”
Cllr Luckock went on to say that the council had been slow to make repairs at Bangor Lane in Conwy. “Secondly we all know, those cabinet members that have been involved for some time, the major problems that we’ve had in dealing with, and it is a governance issue, the outstanding repairs and maintenance on Bangor Lane.
“It’s been a constant issue since the site was designed and constructed, and it is still not resolved, and that’s partly a Cartrefi Conwy (housing association) problem, and it’s partly our problem as well as at Conwy Council.
You also know, and this is again a governance issue, that there is great concern amongst the community that there are no options for transit sites, and, we all know, because there are constantly unauthorised (traveller) sites within the county that we haven’t solved this problem.
“So that problem is not going to go away, so these governance arrangements need to be really robust going forward.”
Cllr Cathy Augustine agreed with that sentiment. “I echo, pretty much, everything that Cllr Paul (Luckock) has said, and I’m very encouraged at first glance to see the words used (in the report) in regard to our work here as engagement, involvement, trust, co-production, so I’m hoping the way this unfolds will actually bring those words to life and not just leave them within a document.”
“One of the problems is even getting small repairs done (at the traveller site)- it sounds ridiculous – who is actually responsible,” she asked.
The “obfuscation” on this issue was a source of “incredible frustration” within the Gypsy and Traveller communities.
Cabinet member for housing Cllr Emily Owen proposed that the cabinet backed the report, and Cllr Chris Cater seconded her, and councillors voted in favour of the report.
In a statement issued after the meeting a council spokeswoman confirmed that the racism complaint was not “upheld: “The monitoring officer advised a member that the reference to a complaint of racism being upheld was incorrect and he would address this issue with the member directly.”