for dispersing asylum seekers throughout out Wales are near to
collapse, delegates at a meeting of the Welsh Local Government
Association were told last week.
Twenty-one councils were due to take part in a scheme designed to
place asylum seekers in suitable accommodation throughout Wales but
the project has never got under way despite months of expensive
local authority consortium behind the project has issued an
ultimatum to the Home Office after running up bills of more than
£175,000 over the past two years.
consortium set an end of April deadline for the Home Office,
through the National Asylum Support Service, to confirm that it
will enter into a contract for the proposed accommodation.
director of the consortium, Graham Bingham, told delegates that the
negotiations that had taken place between the local authorities and
Nass had been tortuous but by the early summer of 2001 a draft
contract acceptable to both Nass and the consortium had been
recommended to the 21 authorities.
“However, before Nass formally signed up to the draft contract,
David Blunkett announced a review of the dispersal process and Nass
imposed a moratorium on entering into new agreements. That
moratorium still applies and the Welsh consortium, together with a
number of others, has effectively been left in limbo,” he said.
succession of promises has been made by Nass during the intervening
months that a decision on the contract was ‘imminent’ or would be
‘within days’. None of the proposed timescales for a decision had
been met,” he added.
meeting heard that if the deadline was not met the consortium would
withdraw from the scheme.
plan does collapse, councils in Wales want the Home Office to
reimburse them for the costs that have been incurred over the last
two years which now stand at £175,000 and are rising by
£13,000 a month. Bingham has told Nass director Freda Chaloner
that the consortium had taken a decision that the present impasse
was both financially and operationally unsustainable.