The new group will be chaired by Brian Briscoe, shortly to retire after 10 years as Local Government Association chief executive, and will explore how to improve the use of enforcement powers to tackle the problem of unauthorised sites.
It will also look into the preventative steps local authorities can take, such as by ensuring that there are enough authorised sites available.
Ms Cooper said:
'Whilst a majority of Gypsy and Traveller caravans are based on authorised sites, there are some communities that are still blighted by unofficial sites in inappropriate locations. The enforcement task group will be key in identifying what works, what doesn't and what more we can do. We need to improve enforcement and provide more appropriate sites at the same time.
'I'm delighted that Sir Brian will be leading the group, bringing in a wealth of experience in both local governent and planning issues.
The group will be a real asset in helping to better understand the problems and in finding the solutions to overcome them.'
The group will also include representatives from the Environment Agency, Home Office, Association of Chief Police Officers, Royal Town Planning Institute, the Commission for Racial Equality, Local Government Association and the Planning Officers' Society.
Sir Brian said:
'The group will be examining issues that create tensions in local communities and seeking more effective means of resolution. It is important to strike the right balance between the interests of Gypsies and Travellers and the settled community. I am pleased to be able to lead this important task group.'
1. The new task group will draw together key agencies to address the wide variations in the use of enforcement powers and champion best practice. It will monitor the operation of the new Temporary Stop Notices, introduced in March 2005, which have been used successfully by some local authorities, to prevent the development of unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller sites. The task group will also examine the difficulties some local agencies face in implementing effective enforcement.
2. The group will examine variations in the use of powers and the causes of those variations, act as champions and advocates to ensure that existing powers are used effectively, and underline the importance of adequate site provision as key to effective enforcement. Finally, the group will act as sounding board on potential new measures to strengthen enforcement powers.
3. For more nformation about what the government is doing to deliver more authorised provision for Gypsies and Travellers and to tackle the problems caused by unauthorised sites, go to www.communities.gov.uk/gypsysites