Travellers row prompts formal complaint about Hove councillor

Posted On 16 Aug 2011 at 6:46 am

A councillor is being investigated after she handed travellers in her ward directions to other open spaces in Brighton and Hove.

Councillor Dawn Barnett, who represents Hangleton and Knoll, provided the directions to travellers who set up an unauthorised camp in Greenleas Recreation Ground in her ward.

Her actions are being investigated under the Brighton and Hove City Council standards regime. She declined to comment about the complaint.

If she is found to have broken the council’s rules she could be punished by being suspended from her role as a councillor.

Councillor Barnett, a Conservative, gave directions to three open spaces in wards with Green councillors.

She has been a vocal critic of the Greens’ “firm but fair” policy on unauthorised travellers encampments.

The Greens say that they want to end the game of cat and mouse each summer when travellers are evicted from one site only to pitch up at another shortly afterwards.

Costly

They say that it is costly and that unauthorised camps at some sites should be tolerated until a permanent site is established in the area.

There is already an official transit site at Horsdean but many more groups pitch up each summer than there are spaces there. The land at 19 Acres, off Devil’s Dyke Road, Brighton, appears to be treated as a tolerated site.

Councillor Barnett questioned whether those who had taken over Greenleas were genuine travellers.

After handing them directions to other sites, she said that they had told her they had homes elsewhere during the winter.

She said that they should abide by the same rules as anyone else wanting to take a caravan holiday.

She also said that the Greens had promised to ask the police to deal with anti-social behaviour at unauthorised camps.

In Greenleas, she said, neighbours complained of fighting, urinating and defecating in the bushes, and noise late at night, including the noise of generators.

Unsafe

She said that council tax payers and their children who wanted to use the park felt unsafe because of the aggressive and intimidating behaviour of the people camped there. She cited incidents of fighting, swearing and shouting.

The council did issue a noise abatement notice.

The complaint about Councillor Barnett was reported to have been made by Councillor Phelim MacCafferty, a Green who represents Brunswick and Adelaide.

His ward was one of those to which Councillor Barnett gave directions.

He declined to comment about the matter although it is believed that he complained that Councillor Barnett, in giving out the directions, had encouraged the travellers to trespass.

A spokesman for the council said: “Complaints about the conduct of elected members remain confidential until the conclusion of any investigation and may only then be released in certain circumstances.

“The council is not able to either confirm or deny that an investigation into the conduct of a member is under way.”

Investigations can take up to six months.

Interview

Councillor Barnett is expected to face an interview about the complaint by the end of this month.

The council’s Standards Committee is next due to meet at the end of September.

One resident in Councillor Barnett’s ward said: “It seems like only yesterday the Greens were complaining about one of their councillors – Jason Kitcat – being brought before the Standards Committee.

“Their gripe seemed to be that Councillor Kitcat was only doing what the council was already doing – in his case sharing footage of council meetings on the web.

“But he wasn’t doing it in the way the administration wanted.

“This is exactly the same principle really.

“Dawn Barnett is doing exactly what the Green administration is doing in encouraging travellers away from some sites and directing them towards others.

“It’s the Greens after all who have been talking about tolerated sites.

“She may not be doing it in the way the administration might like but in reality it’s no different.

Hypocritical

“It would be hypocritical and disingenuous to drag her before the Standards Committee just for doing her job in this way.

“Dawn sticks up for ordinary people.

“Maybe if the council had got its act together when the travellers took over Greenleas, people round here might think the council was acting on behalf of ordinary people too.

“Trying to make some kind of example out of Dawn just makes the Greens look worse than they already do over the problem with travellers.

“I think everyone knows it’s not a new problem but they look like they’re on the back foot now.

“They need to concentrate on the actual issue in hand and not distractions like Dawn’s efforts on behalf of her constituents.”

The Hangleton resident said that other people in the ward had sent messages of support to Councillor Barnett.

The travellers in Greenleas left after almost two weeks after the council obtained an eviction order.

They are believed to have moved to Ladies Mile nature reserve in Patcham.

On Friday (12 August) the council obtained an eviction order relating to Ladies Mile since when the number of caravans and other vehicles in Wild Park, Moulsecoomb, has risen to more than 50.

  1. Aaa Reply

    Cllr MacCafferty should sort his party’s confused position out on travellers before attacking others. This kind of aggressive politics gives the local council a bad name. He should get on with the job he was elected to do instead of bringing his party into disrepute for wasting public time and money on this nasty complaining.

  2. Valerie Paynter, saveHOVE Reply

    Cllr Kitcat put publicly owned and in the public domain footage of Cllr Theobald ranting in a meeting further into the public domain and the mischievous Standards complaint failed. There is no comparison with what Cllr Barnett has dangerously done.

    Why didn’t Cllr Barnett send travellers to so-called ‘Green’, ‘Labour’ or ‘LibDem’ wards over the four years she and her party (Conservative) controlled the City’s governance? How did she deal with traveller problems in her ward then? The problem isn’t new!

    We have over recent months had riots all over the country peopled by belligerent, bolshy young people throwing their weight around (with Charlie Gilmour going to jail for his actions); and only last week had young people looting and burning high streets down as they rioted.

    If Cllr Barnett is not sanctioned, the young of Brighton & Hove would be entitled to sneer cynically and take what she has done as guidance for their own standards of bolshy & belligerent behaviour. If she(and Cllr Tony Janio in support with her) can incite travellers to break the law and get away with it, why should the law mean anything to them? What precedent did she set for levels of acceptable political behaviour and leadership?

    By taking her actions to the press, she clearly wanted to take a lead and get the public to support her – happily cooler heads than hers are to be found amongst residents! Nothing untoward or violent happened that I know of. She can claim no credit for that.

  3. Clive Tring Reply

    Good post Valerie. If a Green or a Labour councillor had tried to dump on the residents of a Tory-voting ward in a similar way, you can bet that it would be a national story – perfect Daily Mail fodder.

    aaa: Cllr MacCafferty was elected to represent the electors of Brunswick and Adelaide, who could have been the victims of Cllr Barnett’s unpleasant publicity stunt. What other means of recourse did he have other than to report her irresponsible actions?

  4. MacC Reply

    Phelim MacCafferty shouldn’t play party political tricks. He is there to represent his ward resdients, none of which are travellers.

  5. Nigel Furness Reply

    Valerie Paynter’s comments lead me to think she has got her wires crossed. It was after all the Greens that called for this to be a city of protest, and welcomed travellers. It’s easy to spew Green bile from an ivory tower, it’s quite another thing to actually go and talk to local residents in Hangleton as I did, and hear first hand what they have been forced to put up with. Quite why she is calling for Dawn Barnett to be dragged before Standards is beyond me, when Dawn has done nothing wrong.

    The question I would like to ask Valerie is how she would feel if the unwanted visitor problem were on her doorstep? The answer we already know, thanks to her loud-mouthed Green councillor “friends”.

    Save Hove like all conservation bodies has no business indulging itself in party politics, and Valerie Paynter does NOT speak for me or other Save Hove supporters I have spoken to on this issue; in fact she has cheapened its reputation. It seems to me that if anyone is saving Hove these days, it’s Dawn Barnett!!

  6. M Williams Reply

    Having looked at the video clip referred to by Valerie Paynter, I have to say she is wrong on a number of counts. Councillor Theobald wasn’t ranting. With self-deprecating humour, he was apologising for being unable to answer a question.
    Councillor Barnett didn’t do anything dangerous and certainly no more dangerous than the council does when it evicts travellers. She gave them directions to other open spaces. She at least acted to encourage them to leave somewhere where public order was at risk. Valerie Paynter did not hear the shouting or see the fighting in Greenleas which one of my friends saw. And I won’t comment here on the extent of the fouling.
    Councillor Barnett is no more enticing travellers to break the law than the council is in encouraging them to move to so-called tolerated sites. We have strict planning laws in this country which govern the use of land. Brighton and Hove City Council has often trumpeted its rigorous enforcement of these laws. Perhaps Valerie Paynter might like to acquaint herself with them before criticising a councillor who is trying to help those in her ward in a difficult situation when the proper authorities seem to be abdicating their responsibilities.
    Councillor Barnett handled a previous unauthorised camp in her ward by calling on the council which then acted promptly.

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  8. Mr Smith Reply

    ohh wow they are back at Wild Park Moulsecoomb i wonder how they got in there the little bumps along the edge of wild park seem to end about 400 yards along the pavement strange that other parts and public fields the preventative measures were much much better made this little effort at the Wild Park in Moulsecoomb seems like another ohh it would have cost a lot of money to make the banking around the park bigger / longer … now how much is it going to cost to clean up after them i have already seen the litter and people taking a dump in the fields

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