Scarborough council vote against taking in asylum seekers

The decision was made today
The decision was made today

Scarborough Borough Council has voted against taking in asylum seekers until financial assurances have been granted by the Home Office.

At today’s Full Council meeting the authority rejected a government request to become a dispersal area.

The programme would have seen no more than 20 people placed in Scarborough borough.

However, acceptance could be forced on it by the Government regardless.

Cabinet member for housing, Cllr Bill Chatt (ind), told the meeting: “We don’t have the money, the staff or the housing stock to do this.

“We have a waiting list [for housing] in this borough of more than 2,000 people. If we do this we have to be aware that we would be writing a blank cheque that we cannot afford.

“I would like to do this but the council needs to send a clear message to the government that we cannot afford this. It would be a very, very big blank cheque.

“The people of Scarborough expect us to help them.”

The Labour group said it hoped the authority would back the proposals.

Labour deputy leader, Cllr Tony Randerson said: “I was in Beruit in the 60s and saw the horrors people there were trying to get away from.

“Yorkshire folk are meant to be humanitarian aren’t we? We should be rolling out the welcome mat for these people.”

A number of councillors took issues with Cllr Chatt’s statement.

Green leader Cllr Mark Vesey said: “I would happily take an asylum seeker into my home at no cost to the borough.”

Cllr Vanda Inman (ind) added: “This council needs to rise to the challenge of helping these people. I’m disgusted with [Cllr Chatt].

Cllr Chatt responded: “My concerns with those who don’t achieve asylum who will end up on the streets with nothing.

“It’s alright being a humanitarian but I’m a realist. Our housing stock is not up to it. My concern is with those who don’t get asylum.

“If that makes me a bad man, then I’m a very bad man.”

Scarborough has previously housed five Syrian families fleeing conflict in their home country in 2017.

The asylum dispersal scheme would be run by G4S while the asylum seekers have their applications for asylum processed.

Accommodation for the asylum seekers would come from the borough’s existing housing stock.

Cllr Eric Broadbent (Lab) told the meeting at Scarborough Town Hall that it was “disgraceful” that the motion even had to be debated.

He added: “We started this meeting with the Lord’s Prayer. We talk about sharing our bread, but not with these 20 people.”

Independent councillor Janet Jefferson said local homeless organisations had told her they could not cope with the extra workload.

Conservative councillor Tom Fox proposed that the request was refused but that a further dialogue is kept open with the Home Office to get some financial commitments.

The motion was backed by council leader, Cllr Derek Bastiman (Con). He said: “The message we should be sending back to the government, my government, is that ‘ you fund it and we will do it’.”

The Labour group, two green councillors and one independent vote to accept the asylum seekers.

The refusal with Cllr Fox’s amendment was voted through by the Conservative group, two Independent Group councillors and two non-affiliated independent councillors.