People living in a traveller community in Essex
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Inside a threatened Essex travellers' site

The issue of how to deal with travellers, gypsies and Roma people is one facing governments across Europe.

Some have taken direct measures - like the French government which last week flew dozens of ethnic Roma back to Romania.

In England, the government has withdrawn funding for local authorities to build new sites and has scrapped the targets brought in by the Labour government for authorities to re-accommodate travellers living illegally.

The BBC's Mike Lanchin went to visit one of the residents of a well-established traveller site - 69-year-old Mary Ann McCarthy who lives in Dale Farm, Essex.

The site is subject to a dispute between the residents and Conservative-controlled Basildon District Council.

Council leader Cllr Tony Ball told the BBC that more than £1m in legal costs has been spent to clear Dale Farm and said he welcomed the changes that the Conservative government has brought in, but with some reservations.

"Through the scrapping of targets we don't now have to find extra provision for gypsies and travellers; but it also means that other local authorities don't have a responsibility to find sites," he said.

  • 25 Aug 2010