Housing Rights for Gypsies and Travellers
Leeds Tenants Federation is fighting for the housing rights of Gypsies and Travellers. There is only one official Gypsy & Traveller site provided in Leeds where rents are high, conditions are poor and there is no security of tenure. But for those without an authorised site, to be a Gypsy or Traveller in Leeds is to be discriminated against and scapegoated in what appears to be the last 'acceptable' racism. In this article we set out some of the main housing issues for Gypsies and Travellers in Leeds.
Did you know the average life expectancy for a man living in the UK today is 76 years? But not if you are a Gypsy or Traveller. They can only expect to live until they are 50 years old!
Another shocking statistic: Gypsy and Traveller infant mortality rate is three times the national average, and 18% of Gypsy and Traveller women have suffered the death of a child compared to the national average of 1%.
This may not be so surprising when you consider some other facts. Only three doctors’ surgeries in the whole of Leeds will accept tenants from the Cottingley Springs Gypsy and Traveller site at their surgeries.
Every tenant at Cottingley Springs is living in fuel poverty and some tenants are spending up to 40% of their income on fuel. Talking of costs, rent for a plot at Cottingley Springs is £109 per week and contrary to a commonly held myth, the tenants do pay council tax. They need £200 a week to cover their rent, council tax, energy and water costs. Inevitably, this catches people in a benefit trap. You need a well-paid job to clothe and feed your children while living at Cottingley Springs!
Things are worse if you are living at a roadside encampment where there is no electricity, running water, toilet and rubbish disposal facilities, and no chance of getting your kids into school. Of course, living roadside means one other thing. Eviction. Leeds City Council spends an average of £300,000 on evicting camps.
There is a need for 40 new Gypsy and Traveller plots in Leeds by 2012 on three or four smaller sites. The community would also like 1 or 2 small sites providing temporary accommodation, somewhere for them to stop off for a short period, while passing through the city.
Politicians are wary of providing these new sites because of the prejudice that surrounds the Gypsy and Traveller community. But there is 100% government grant available to build the sites and it would be better for everyone they were built, and conditions improved for Gypsy and Traveller families than to continue to face the problem and the cost of roadside encampments.
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