Hartlepool councillor apologises over gypsy ‘blight’ comment

General view of Hart Village
General view of Hart Village

A COUNCILLOR has apologised to a travellers’ organisation which lodged an official complaint after he said gypsy sites proposed for Hart Village would “blight the whole ward”.

Labour councillor Paul Beck has since apologised and the Traveller Movement has agreed to withdraw the complaint to Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit and governance committee and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

Paul Beck

Paul Beck

This week, Coun Beck, who represents the Hart Ward, said he has nothing against gypsies or travellers and was merely backing his residents but has since written to apologise.

In a letter, seen by the Mail, Coun Beck said: “First of all I apologise for any offence caused to the Traveller Community. My comments were purely based on concerns raised by my constituents and as ward councillor I was opposed to the decision to place the two sites in Hart Village.

“The term ‘blight’ was not used with malice towards any members of your community. Perhaps when supporting my resident’s concerns I should have said that placing the two sites in a tourist/historical village would have an impact on the whole area.”

The Traveller Movement is a registered charity that aims to raise capacity and social inclusion of the Irish Traveller community in Britain.

Spokesman Mike Doherty said: “It takes a certain amount of integrity and courage to own up to mistakes, intentional or unintentional, so we welcome Coun Becks’ apology.

“We hope that Hartlepool campaigners and politicians involved in any future Traveller site disputes will be careful about the language that they use when arguing their case. “We trust that Hartlepool Council will continue to fulfil its legal duties towards its small resident gypsy and Irish traveller population.”

The Traveller Movement had also slammed the council after it agreed to scrap its Local Plan and start again after previously assigning land at Hart to accommodate gypsies and travellers and examine if the town needs to provide any sites.