COUNCIL leaders have launched a report calling for new measures to put an end to 4,000 unauthorised gypsy and traveller sites.

By providing the gypsy and traveller community with sufficient authorised sites, the spread of unauthorised encampments will be stopped and relationships between the settled and Gypsy and Traveller communities will be improved, a Local Government Association report states.

Once located on authorised sites councils will be able to ensure that travelling communities pay council tax for the services they use.

The LGA believes it is important that the gypsy and traveller community and the settled community have equal rights, and that they bear the same responsibilities. Only when this is seen to happen will there be reduced friction between the two groups.

Almost 4,000 unauthorised sites in England account for a quarter of all sites.

New measures outlined in the LGA report include: * Provision of sufficient suitable sites for the 4,000 caravans currently on unauthorized sites or unauthorized developments.

* Ensuring all gypsies and travellers pay council tax. At present only some do.

* Limiting potential environmental damage by providing waste, sanitation and other services, which must be paid for by the gypsies and travellers using them.

* Dealing effectively with the minority of problem sites with measures including Anti Social Behaviour Orders and using police power where necessary.

* Establishing temporary stopping sites and then issuing annual licences to gypsies and travellers who want to use these sites.

Councillor Richard Bennett, Chairman of the Local Government Association's Gypsies and Travellers Task Group, said: "Only by providing more authorised sites and implementing new measures can councils deal effectively with the problem of unauthorised encampments and unauthorized developments.

"Both the gypsy and traveller and settled communities must have equal rights and carry the same responsibilities. This means all gypsies and travellers must pay Council Tax and pay for the services they use. Only when this is seen to happen will there be reduced friction between the two groups.

"Councils must now complete accommodation needs assessments for both the travelling and settled communities, and then gypsy and traveller sites need to be provided urgently. Central government appears to be supportive of this, but there are cost implications which they need to address for this to happen."But this is not a case of central government versus local government. Many groups have come together to work on this, including the Commission for Racial Equality, the gypsy and traveller community, and the Department for Communities and Local Government."

Gypsies and travellers on authorized sites are currently charged council tax. Those on unauthorized sites are not charged council tax until the valuation office has allocated the caravans on that site with a council tax band.