More than two thirds of Gypsy Travellers are not satisfied with the way Fife Council is managing their permanent sites across the Kingdom, according to new figures.
Tarvit Mill in Cupar, Heatherywood near Kirkcaldy and Thornton Wood near Kelty have all come in for criticism, despite a commitment from the local authority to invest £2 million in facilities in recent years.
A report to Fife’s community and housing services committee revealed just 31.58% of Gypsy Travellers were content with how the council was performing as landlord – well below the Scottish average of more than 78%.
The council’s head of housing John Mills said the authority was setting a target of 70% tenant satisfaction by 2021/22.
“I’ve taken personal responsibility to really focus on this issue,” he said.
“We’re unique in that we’ve got three active tenants and residents associations at these sites so we’re in regular dialogue with Gypsy Travellers in Fife about the accommodation options that they want to see.”
The council manages 20 pitches at Tarvit Mill, 18 at Heatherywood and 12 at Thornton Wood. Each pitch has hardstanding space to park a caravan and another vehicle, an amenity block with toilet, shower and bath, a kitchen area, hot and cold water, and storage.
There is also a mixture of self-contained caravans and chalet-style accommodation.
Users of the site pay rent and council tax.
Reasons for the poor satisfaction levels include the condition of the pitches, a lack of accommodation, and too few site improvements. The council has approved £800,000 worth of improvements per site in recent years.
Mr Mills said the transfer of Gypsy Traveller sites and services to the housing revenue account (HRA) instead of the general fund would give the council more control over investment in future.
“Opening up HRA potential is probably the number one priority for us just now, just shading homeless temporary accommodation,” he said.
News of the situation in Fife comes as the Scottish Government announced new guidelines for local authorities to enable them to better address the needs of Gypsy Travellers.
The refreshed Local Housing Strategy Guidance requires councils to increase engagement with the Gypsy Traveller community to ensure standards are improved and current and future accommodation needs are met.
Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “We are determined to work closely with the Gypsy Traveller community and to hear from them so we can better meet their needs, and improve the quality of life for members of the community.”