THE MP’S for Harlow and Thurrock,Robert Halfon and Jackie Doyle-Price, have written a damning letter slamming their local authorities for a lack of action in response to a ‘siege’ of illegal encampments in both Harlow and Thurrock.
The letter, which is addressed to the Home Secretary, the Communities Secretary, and the Justice Secretary, sets out a range of complaints including lack of action by the Chief Constable of Essex Police, failure of the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner to uphold his public duty, as well as Councils being slow to use enforcement powers.
The letter summarises the issues, and concludes by saying:
“It is our understanding that there are relevant laws that could be used to tackle this issue including laws on trespass, highways and antisocial behaviour. Given the adverse effect that not using these powers properly are having on the people of Essex, we urge you to hold an inquiry looking at the actions of both the Chief Constable, and the Police and Crime Commissioner, to see what lessons should be learnt, and what more can be done. We would also appreciate advice on how councils can act more effectively.
The residents of Harlow and Thurrock have suffered enough, and it is time that immediate action is taken and the law upheld”
Both Harlow and Thurrock have had a large number of illegal encampments in the last year – including over 70 in Harlow. In both constituencies, local people have reported distressing stories of mess and antisocial behaviour, and over 2,000 residents in Harlow have signed a petition calling on the authorities to take action. Despite this high level of public feeling, little has been done by the authorities to deal with the issues, leading the MPs to demand an inquiry into what more can be done.
The letter raises the following four main points:
Failure of the Chief Constable of Essex Police
The letter states: “We believe that there has been a significant failure of the Chief Constable for Essex to uphold the law and deal with this problem effectively…. In Harlow, the police have seemed reluctant to act, seemingly because of human rights legislation about those individuals setting up illegal encampments.
"To date, there have been 73 illegal encampments in Harlow, but only 10 Section 61 Notices served… We believe there should be an inquiry as whether the Chief Constable is upholding the law fully and whether the policy of Essex Police is appropriate”.
Failure of the Police and Crime Commissioner
The letter says: “An investigation should be launched into whether he is upholding his public duty. As the public’s representative it is his job to ensure that policing is upholding the law in Essex and to give challenge to the chief Constable where it is failing”.
Failure of the Authorities
Regarding councils, the letter comments: “There does seem to be some confusion as to exactly what laws are able to be used by the Council and what laws are to be used by the police. It would be helpful if this could be clarified… We both believe that the Council should also pursue the perpetrators who set up illegal camps that then lead to huge clean up costs at the expense of the taxpayer for compensation.”
Finally, the letter goes on to raise issues with court delays that are holding back progress in their constituencies.