Guest post: The Real Cost of Cutting Communities

This is a guest post by Zelda Jeffers, a member of Basildon Uncut. Basildon Uncut is joining others at a march to Dale Farm from 1pm on Saturday 10 September, starting at Wickford train station, half an hour from London Liverpool St.

While activists across the country have been taking action against the cuts, our local council in Essex has managed to get hold of £18 million to evict a local community from their own land and make them homeless.

Dale Farm is Europe’s largest Traveller community, and one that has been under constant threat of eviction. It is probably most famous for being featured on the TV hit “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding”, but its claim to fame might change if Basildon Council gets its way.

Ignoring pleas from the United Nations and Amnesty International, Basildon Borough Council has set aside £9.2 million for the eviction operation – more than a third of its budget. Essex police have obtained another £10 million from the Home Office and Basildon Council to cover what they expect to be a three week battle with five hundred resisting residents and supporters.

Basildon Council are axing local services and jobs to pay for making 50 families homeless. The Council is claiming that they are protecting the Green Belt from the Travellers – ignoring that it was a scrapyard when the Travellers bought the land and cleaned it up. Ironically, the eviction costs are being blamed as one of the reasons why Basildon Council is controversially selling off our well used and loved playing fields and parkland, and allowing developers to build on them to increase their value.

We’ve been asked to pay for the financial crisis caused by the banks, and now we’re being asked to pay in order to deliberately make people homeless. £505,000 is being cut to disabled services, and 100 Basildon Council jobs are likely to be axed to help the local authority cope with budget cuts which will leave it £2.3 million short.

Spending £18 million on evicting families from their own land when we can’t find the funds to keep nurseries, libraries and youth centres open shows something has gone terribly wrong. The excuse for this outrage is that it’s about ‘upholding the law’. But the law isn’t being applied equally. According to the Commission for Racial Equality, more than 90% of Traveller planning applications are initially rejected compared to 20% overall. The council demands that Travellers move to authorised pitches, but they refuse to make any available. So what is this about? It’s about ethnic cleansing, and Basildon council wants us, the local people, to foot the bill.