Bucks councillors' 'hateful outbursts' against travellers 'made colleague burst into tears'

Julia WassellJulia Wassell
Julia Wassell
A Bucks councillor has told how ‘hateful’ outbursts by her colleagues against travellers have made her ‘burst into tears’.

Julia Wassell, a Wycombe Independent, slammed her fellow councillors during a discussion about improving equality and diversity awareness at Buckinghamshire Council earlier this week.

She said: “There are some less popular groups who are protected by the Equalities Act who I think we need to be examining our approach far more carefully.

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“I am fed up with these outbursts that we get against travellers because I know from my professional work that most travellers are vulnerable women and children.

Councillor Paul IrwinCouncillor Paul Irwin
Councillor Paul Irwin

“We have these outbursts often led by councillors against Irish travellers who should know better and I really don’t like it.

“I don’t agree with any anti-social behaviour activity from any group but of course we always have to be complaining about travellers.

“The level of animosity is really quite hateful and I would appreciate if the council could show some leadership to highlight the way in which are travellers are living, the successes that many travellers have got in their lifestyle, and the barriers that are put up to travellers living in Buckinghamshire in a peaceful way.

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“We need somebody to counteract these hateful outbursts that really make me want to go onto the bed and burst into tears.

“I know many people who are travellers and they are not as depicted.”

Travellers were recently spotted near St Lawrence’s Church on West Wycombe Hill, but only stayed at the site for two days.

It was reported the National Trust deployed rangers to clear and bag up rubbish left at the top of the hill following their departure.

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This led to Wycombe MP Steve Baker calling on the government to do more to tackle illegal traveller camps.

Responding to Cllr Wassell, Conservative councillor Paul Irwin, who heads up the communities and localism committee and who represents Stone and Waddesdon, said: “I wholeheartedly agree with you Julia.

“We’ve got some travellers near us, they set up home, they bought their own land, they come to the local pub and they’re a great part of our community.

“Every group, of every colour and creed, will always have its bad apples, always, that is human nature.

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“But on the whole, every group has a positive part to play in society and we must never forget that and I think there is too much stereotyping that goes on in society these days.”

The discussion took place during a virtual meeting of the committee on Thursday, June 18.

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