28/11/2009 – Allegations against a bailiff company favoured to win a huge contract for the eviction operation at Dale Farm have sparked an investigation by Basildon’s internal audit officers.

The council’s cabinet is to meet on 10 December to select one of two bailiff outfits bidding for the job of evicting some hundred families from Dale Farm and nearby

Constant & Co., based in Bedford, has previously carried out such work for the district council. It has been shortled listed from eight firms which originally showed interest in the contract, believed to be worth up to two million pounds.

However, should audit officers decide there is substance to any of the more serious allegations against Constant, the matter might be referred to the council’s overview and scrutiny commission.

It is also possible, under a clause in Basildon council’s constitution, that a member of the public will request any disputed decision be called in by the commission before an eviction at either location is mounted.

Internal audit officer Jill Norton, who received the initial complaints against Constant through the lately created whistleblower service, says the issues raised are being taken very seriously.

She has further acknowledged receipt of a 26-page dossier cataloguing many alleged wrongdoings by Constant bailiffs while employed by Basildon and other local authorities.

Copies of the dossier have also been sent by Dale Farm Housing Association to Conservative, Labour and Liberal members of the cabinet.

It draws attention to a warning from Brentwood, Billericay and Wickford Primary Care Trust that a forced eviction at Dale Farm would inevitably result in trauma and injury to women and children.

Constant bailiffs ignored health and safety procedures when demolishing homes at Hovefields Drive, Wickford, in 2006, it is alleged. At the same time the firm failed to carry out a risk assessment before the operation, according to to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“A major worry is that these bailiffs will bring heavy machinery in here,” commented a Dale Farm mother. “It’s not legal to start bulldozing with children around and we won’t allow it.”

To draw attention to their fears, residents from Dale Farm are holding a protest rally outside the Basildon Centre to coincide with the cabinet meeting.

An exhibition, depicting the ill-treatment of Roma and Travellers over the past seventy years, was prepared to mark Human Rights Day, 10 December. Elements of it will still be displayed in St Martin’s square.

However, request to mount the full exhibition in the Basildon Centre was turned down by the council.

“We were not allowed to put a question to the council’s full meeting last week,” said the same mother. “They said our request was received an hour late. But we’ll
make our voice heard at this protest and hope other people will join us.”

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Human Rights Day
10 December, 7.30pm
Basildon Centre,
St Martin’s Square
Basildon SS14 1DL
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