Blackpool Council leader blasts Home Office for breaking agreement on moving asylum seekers into resort hotel
The leader of Blackpool Council has criticised the Home Office for breaking an agreement with town hall officials about moving asylum seekers into a resort hotel.
Coun Lynn Williams said the council is now reviewing its legal position on the decision to house hundreds of asylum seekers in the Metropole Hotel, who were allegedly moved in secretly last night.
Coun Williams has criticised the Home Office, the Metropole's owner Britiannia Hotel Group and the private public services firm Serco for breaking an agreement with the council after it was seeking an injuncitve case at court to prevent the asylum seekers being put there.
She said: “We have strongly and repeatedly expressed to the Britannia Hotel Group, Serco and the Home Office, that the proposed use of this accommodation requires planning consent which is not in place. That view has not changed. We also remain of the firm view that this hotel, in this location, is wholly unsuitable for the purpose of accommodating and supporting asylum seekers.
“On Wednesday last week we were assured by the Home Office and Serco that we would be informed in advance of any arrivals, and that nobody would be placed in the hotel before Monday at the earliest. This assurance was given at the explicit request of local health leaders, who have repeatedly evidenced the unprecedented level of demand facing local health services.
“It is therefore extremely disappointing that the Home Office and Serco chose to break this agreement and place people over the weekend without notifying local services. This is no way for central government departments and their contractors to behave, and seriously undermines our trust in them.
“We are further disappointed that this has taken place after we informed all parties that as Britannia was not accepting of our position, we were seeking injunctive action that would prevent the proposed use. This would have been heard in court today and I am saddened that they have acted in a way that smacks of a deliberate move to frustrate the justice system.
“We will be working with our partners to ensure that the appropriate support is in place for the very vulnerable families and children who have arrived with us here in Blackpool. Their placement at the Metropole is not of their choosing and I hope our community will show compassion and understanding for the time that they are here.
“In the meantime, and in the light of the changed circumstances, we are reviewing our legal position and will take appropriate action if we are able to do so.”
The decision follows weeks of discussion and disagreements between the parties and the move has also been criticised by resort MPs Scott Benton and Paul Maynard.
Mr Benton, MP for Blackpool South said: "I’m extremely disappointed that this placement of asylum seekers has occurred. Placing a large number of people in a building which is not fit for purpose, at a time when public services in the resort are already under pressure, is a ridiculous decision.
I’ve made my strong feelings on this issue clear to both government ministers and the council and I will continue to do so. Whilst many towns and cities across England already have, or have had, a placement of asylum seekers, so in this respect Blackpool is not unique, the use of this sub-standard accommodation; the hotel’s location in our central holiday area; and the impact upon our local public services when they are already under pressure are all strong reasons why I don’t think this placement is acceptable at all.
I would strongly urge the Council to do everything they can to challenge this placement and to examine whether it is permissible on planning grounds.
My understanding is that 141 asylum seekers - mainly women and girls - have been placed into the Metropole so far and we are expecting this number to increase.
I will be working with all of our local public service providers to try and minimise the impact of this settlement to local residents.”