Peterborough City Council vows not to waste money on court action to remove asylum seekers from Great Northern Hotel
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Peterborough City Council’s leader has vowed not to waste taxpayers’ money to remove asylum seekers from a prominent city hotel.
The promise has been made by local authority leader Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald after officers spent weeks putting together details that might persuade a court that the new use of the Great Northern Hotel, in Station Approach, was not legally approved.
It comes as the council is in ongoing talks with representatives of the Home Office and Serco, which provides accommodation for asylum seekers and moved about 80 men into the hotel on November 11 last year from the Manson processing centre in Kent, which was being overwhelmed by the sheer number of newly arriving asylum seekers.
The move sparked protests from leading politicians who said the hotel was an inappropriate building for such a use and warned damage could be caused to nearby infrastructure.
But despite the objections of the council and Peterborough MP Paul Bristow, who has also raised the issue in the House of Commons, the Home Office has not moved the asylum seekers.
After dropping plans to seek an injunction against the new use of the hotel because it thought the action would fail, the council began looking at ways of using its planning powers.
But Cllr Fitzgerald said: “ We would only take legal action if we are confident that we stand a chance of winning, as we do not want to waste taxpayers money.”
A council spokesperson said: “We are in ongoing discussions with the Home Office and are keeping all options open at the moment, including potential legal action."
It is also understood that the Home Office decided last month to change its use of the hotel from a daily spot purchase to a long term contingency use.
Peterborough MP Paul Bristow said: “If the council and the Home Office are talking about the long term future of the Great Northern Hotel, then I hope it is about making sure it is run as a hotel.
“Peterborough does not need a long term hostel for asylum seekers at the gateway to our city.”
What is the Home Office saying?
A government spokesperson refused to comment specifically on the Great Northern Hotel but said: “The use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable.
“We are working to deliver the Prime Minister’s commitments, including ending hotel use, while ensuring that asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, are supported in our accommodation system.
“The government has been clear that the use of hotels to house asylum seekers needs to stop as they are an expensive short-term solution.
“We are working with our accommodation providers to find longer-term accommodation, such as dispersal properties.”
How big is the issue of asylum seekers in the UK?
- There are currently more than 45,500 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £5.6 million a day.
- The cost of accommodating Afghans in bridging hotels is £1.2 million a day