MP attacks consultation over asylum hostel plan

The Home Office admitted last week that there were “serious
concerns” over the National Asylum Support Service’s (Nass)
decision to designate Grimsby as a “cluster area” for asylum

Great Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell told the House of Commons that
North East Lincolnshire Council had only discovered Nass’s plans
for the area when presented with a routine planning

The application proposes transferring the use of Springfield
Hall in Grimsby from accommodation for 90 students and nurses to
private-sector accommodation for more than 200 asylum-seekers.

Mitchell said the council had been “treated with contempt as a
result of what looks to be an administrative cock-up or mess”.

Neither the council, the health authority, nor the education
authority, were consulted over the plans, which will lead to a
large influx of asylum-seekers.

The council voluntarily joined Nass’s dispersal scheme in 1999
by establishing a hostel for about 45 asylum-seekers but claims
that Grimsby does not meet the criteria to be a cluster area. The
criteria stress the availability of accommodation, the presence of
a multi-cultural population and the scope to develop a voluntary
and community support infrastructure.

Grimsby’s proposed designation as a cluster area has been
attributed to the Yorkshire and Humber regional consortium – one of
the 10 regional committees set up to negotiate contracts with the
Home Office and Nass. However, at the end of April, the consortium
stated Grimsby was not a suitable area to take large numbers of

“I want Grimsby’s designation as a cluster area to be withdrawn,
because it was imposed without consultation and without the
consequences being explained,” Mitchell told the House of

He said Grimsby did not have a substantial ethnic population
that could provide support networks for asylum-seekers, and that
the local social services, health and education budgets were under
financial strain.

In reply, Home Office minister Charles Clarke reassured MPs that
conversations were “actively taking place to try to clarify the

“It appears that there was a lack of understanding about what
was involved in the process and we are now addressing that,” Clarke

“There are serious concerns about the effectiveness of that
dialogue and the process by which Grimsby was proposed to be
considered by the consortium,” he said.

North East Lincolnshire Council’s deputy-director of housing
Stewart Jones said that the council was “less than pleased” about
not being consulted. “We want to know the area can support the
numbers being suggested,” he said.

This is not the first time Nass has been criticised for
sidelining councils from dispersal discussions. Last August,
Plymouth Council threatened to leave the South West Regional
Consortium after Nass arranged private-sector accommodation for 500
asylum-seekers without council involvement.

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