After the Government procured 100 beds for asylum seekers without consulting the Council, local Conservatives have asked the Home Office to listen to Datchet residents' concerns.
Both Council Leader Andrew Johnson and Windsor Conservative Chairman Lars Swann have written to the Home Secretary to stand up for local residents on the issue. Lars' letter is attached below.
Andrew Johnson, Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, wrote as follows:
The failing partnership with Local Authorities supporting those seeking asylum
Dear Home Secretary,
Congratulations on your appointment. I am sure you will be very aware of the challenges presented by the continual and increasing flow of migrants across the English Channel. I am writing to urge you to ensure that the Home Office and Local Authorities work proactively together to find appropriate and sustainable solutions that work for both migrants and residents alike.
I was dismayed last week to find out with less than 36 hours’ notice that The Manor Hotel in Datchet, Berkshire, has been procured to provide around 100 contingency accommodation (CA) beds for those seeking asylum without any consultation with the local authority, residents, or any other public sector partners. Indeed, the first conversation with local authority officers only happened after the facility was operating as CA and after our Housing team had already acted to relocate the ten residents, on our homelessness pathway, whom had been given 24 hours to leave the property.
The Manor Hotel is in the centre of a village with almost no local support services for this cohort, restricted public transport, and full schools close to the Hotel. The residents are understandably concerned about the impact on their day to day lives and reasonably expect liaison from both the Home Office and the Council. I share their view that they have been let down because of the lack of consultation ahead of time. I would ask that a senior representative of the Home Office attends a local meeting with residents to listen to their concerns and provide reassurance about the steps being taken by your contractor to ensure that the operation at The Manor Hotel is safe for Datchet residents.
More widely, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is carrying a disproportionate share of the CA capacity, compared to others and the reasonable expectations which drive our central levels of funding for local services. Council officers were quoted the following statistics last week: 30,000 people seeking asylum in the country; 1,500 in the Thames Valley; and 500 in the Royal Borough. It cannot be fair that the Borough is expected to support 1.6% of the migrant population when our population is only 0.27% of England’s population based on ONS (Office for National Statistics) 2018 numbers.
The 500 CA beds are also 4 times more than the proposed number of people the Borough is being asked to house in dispersed accommodation (DA) in the consultation of the full dispersal scheme, and 50 times more than the current DA number which is reflective of the capacity in the local housing market. This rapid and extreme change in volume is clearly a new burden on the Royal Borough.
When we add this to the Home Office decision in August to immediately increase the National Transfer Scheme threshold by 43% to 0.1% of the child population as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC), the Royal Borough will have taken on 32 more children in care this calendar year; an increase of 10 times more than we have ever seen through our statutory duty. In this year, these unfunded new burdens are forecast to have a net cost to the Royal Borough more than £0.6m, which will be recur every year and increase as the flow of migrants shows no sign of abating.
The Royal Borough understands the need for every area to carry its share, however we must plan together. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and officials to consider how the Home Office and local government partnership can be developed to make sure that the needs of migrants and residents are met in the most effective way forward.
Cllr Andrew Johnson
Leader of the Council
Cabinet Member for Growth & Opportunity