It is not proposed to establish a national Traveller accommodation agency. It is not clear that such a centralised agency would be better positioned to deal with issues that arise in relation to the provision of Traveller specific accommodation such as land acquisition, objections from local communities, court challenges from such communities and consultation with Travellers in relation to accommodation requirements. Travellers are also accommodated in standard social housing, including shared ownership and tenant purchase schemes, provided by local authorities; a national agency would add a significant element of organisational and administrative complexity which might not enhance the delivery of accommodation services.
The Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 put in place the structures to provide accommodation for Travellers across the whole range of accommodation options, including standard social housing and Traveller specific accommodation. In the first four years, 2000-03, of the first local authority Traveller accommodation programmes an additional 1,369 Traveller families have been accommodated. This compares favourably with the four years prior to the commencement of the programmes during which an additional 516 families were accommodated.
Local authorities are now preparing new Traveller accommodation programmes to cover the period 2005-08. These new programmes will give a renewed impetus to the provision of accommodation for Travellers. With a view to improving the rate of accommodation provision, local authorities have been instructed to include annual targets for the provision of all categories of accommodation for Travellers in each of the four years of the new programmes. With increased monitoring by the national Traveller accommodation consultative committee and continued Government commitment to supporting local authorities through the provision of funding, I am satisfied that the existing structures are the most appropriate mechanisms for meeting the accommodation needs of Travellers.