LGA lobbies Patel on asylum pressures

By Dan Peters | 17 November 2021

Senior councillors have written to ministers expressing their concerns about the resettlement of Afghan refugees.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is understood to have written to home secretary Priti Patel about asylum pressures.

It has asked for ways to widen dispersal, funding for councils to cover the real cost and options to tackle the shortage of appropriate accommodation.

Chair of the LGA’s asylum, refugee and migration taskforce, Cllr Nick Forbes, said he was ‘seeking an urgent conversation with ministers’ about pressures on the sector.

Cllr Forbes called for a ‘jointly managed, locally driven process’ for reducing hotel use and moving asylum seekers into communities to be ‘urgently’ developed.

He added: ‘A lack of funding to meet councils’ costs remains a disincentive to participating in the voluntary dispersal scheme, particularly at a time when local authorities are facing significant budget pressures.’

Councils have offered hundreds of properties to support the resettlement and relocation of Afghan citizens and their families but sector insiders have complained about the time taken to match available accommodation with asylum seekers due to ‘ropey data’.

The LGA is believed to be keeping a list of accommodation offered by councils that the Government has failed to utilise.

One lead officer for refugee resettlement said: ‘The Home Office promised they would match families with available accommodation within 48 hours but that isn’t happening.

'It’s just ground to wading through treacle.

'It’s not good that these people are spending a long time in bridging accommodation.

‘The Home Office recently did an audit of the occupants of the bridging hotels but they haven’t shared the results with us.

'They want to be in control.

'We struggle to get answers out of them.

‘Empty properties are a risk.

'We do not want to have properties sitting empty so we’re not taking properties as fast as we could do.

'We’ve scaled back a little bit in how we’re procuring properties.’

The officer added: ‘We’ve said to the Home Office don’t do it like this.

'It’s very frustrating.

'They’re literally making it up as they go along.’

A Government spokesperson said there was a 'huge effort underway to get families into permanent homes so they can settle and rebuild their lives' but stressed the accommodation offered 'must meet the needs of those being resettled'.

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