A COUNCIL leader has suggested that neighbouring authorities could do more to provide accomodation for Gypsy and traveller communities as figures show a sharp disparity between levels of provision in the region.

Councillor Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council, said councils in the Tees Valley area should follow his authority’s lead and consider whether they have enough sites for Gypsy families as demand continues to rise.

Officials from Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland councils have all rejected Coun Dixon’s comments and said they are happy with the service they provide.

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Darlington Borough Council already provides 62 residential pitches for Gypsies and travellers and has started consultation on potential sites for 35 extra places, which has proved controversial with local residents.

In comparison, Middlesbrough Council provides 30 pitches, with no plans to provide any more, while Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council provides 13 pitches, with no expansion plans.

A spokesman for Hartlepool Borough Council, which has no pitches, said the issue had been explored by the council, which “strongly felt” there was no demand in the area.

Stockton Borough Council has 41 pitches. A spokeswoman said the authority is carrying out an assessment of need to determine future options for Gypsy and traveller sites in the borough.

Coun Dixon said: “The facts speak for themselves – we’ve reviewed the figures and accepted that we have by far and away the largest traveller population [in the Tees Valley].

“It’s reasonable to expect other authorities would review their policies and the number of pitches they provide.

“It is up to individual authorities to review the demand that they find or perceive and then meet it. If Hartlepool are happy with their provision, then fine, that’s great for them.

“Gypsies and travellers are a part of the community in Darlington, in significant numbers, so it’s not unreasonable to make provision for them.”

A survey carried out in 2009, the Tees Valley Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment, which was commissioned jointly by the five authorities, suggested that an extra 142 pitches would be needed across the region in the next 15 years.

A spokesman for Redcar and Cleveland council said: “The council continues to support the findings of the Tees Valley Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment.

We recently secured £400,000 to expand our traveller site in South Bank, which has proved extremely popular, and have no further plans at this time.”

A spokesman for Middlesbrough Council said: “We were allocated just over £580,000 in 2010 to create new pitches, and upgrade and extend the Metz Bridge site.

“The residents were delighted with the upgrades and the ongoing management of the site, but we have no further plans in the pipeline.”