Council 'calls pensioners racists' for objecting to cost of tidying up after travellers

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An elderly couple who suggested that gipsies and travellers should contribute towards the cost of cleaning up any mess they make have been branded racist. 

Pensioners Rita and Norman Brookhouse were told that their views - expressed in response to a public consultation - breached race laws and would be ignored. 

However, rather than objecting to proposed gipsy and traveller camps, all the couple did was to point out that the planned sites might be messy.

Mr Brookhouse, 73, and his wife, 76, wrote: 'Travellers use their current areas because they can find work and facilities available there. Keeping most in the same area should be less expensive than starting mainly new areas. 

'Reasonable charges must be made for use of sites so that local people know the travellers are contributing to the community finances. At present travellers give nothing to the community where they stay; indeed they create expense (rubbish clearance, etc. after they have departed).' 

The couple, from Havant in Hampshire, were shocked to receive an official reply which told them their views were 'discriminatory' and based on 'negative assumptions'. 

their views - expressed in response to a public consultation - breached race laws and would be ignored.

The letter cited the Race Relations Act and concluded that their opinion 'could be construed as offensive' and would therefore be ignored. 

The public consultation was carried out late last year by the South East England Regional Assembly. 

The unelected organisation - which co- ordinates the work of 76 local councils - wanted to gauge public opinion on plans to build 1,076 gipsy and traveller pitches across its area. 

Yesterday Mrs Brookhouse, a retired scientist, insisted that she supported the idea of gipsy and traveller sites that were properly managed. 

She said: 'We are not racist. It doesn't matter to me as long as people respect the area they live in and pull their weight.' 

She added: 'This country is supposed to be a democracy. To be told that they don't like what you're saying and are therefore going to discount it is utterly ridiculous. 

'I'm a taxpayer in a town where the council has to spend thousands of pounds a year clearing up after travellers and we don't get anything back.' 

The Brookhouses' MP, Shadow Cabinet member David Willetts, said yesterday: 'The Brookhouses have drawn attention to widespread concern about the expense that's created by having to clear up their rubbish after they depart. 

'This is basically a statement of fact. There were no abusive or offensive remarks about gipsies or travellers as an ethnic group. It is completely absurd to suggest so and undermines the consultation.'  continues here

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