March 2, 2021

Newyddion Cymru Ar-Lein : Wales News Online

Newyddion Lleol a Chenedlaethol Cymru – Local and National News for Wales

Council and police commissioner want Home Office to pay Penally camp costs

CLLR David Pugh at a Pembrokeshire Council scrutiny committee meeting said the cost of supporting Penally asylum seeker camp could reach half a million pound if use is extended in March, when permitted development expires, with the meeting told it is costing around £55,000 a month.

He said on January 26 that the council should be “bashing down the door” for reimbursement. But the Home Office has said  it “does not provide additional funding to local authorities anywhere in the UK.”

Pembrokeshire County Council senior officers said that the authority continued to lobby the Home Office for “full cost recovery” but no agreement had been made.

A Home Office spokesman said that business rates are paid to Pembrokeshire County Council for the Penally site which is designed to “contribute towards public services consumed” and no additional funding is provided for any UK council “in connection with any of the local costs incurred under the Home Office’ provision of accommodation for asylum seekers.”

Pembrokeshire County Council said it noted the Home Office’s position but its “stance has been that the sudden imposition of this arrangement into a location that is not well prepared or suited to this arrangement has resulted in a number of substantial exceptional costs.”

A spokesman added it is “considered misleading” to link business rates to a contribution as the council does not retain the rates but collects them for Welsh Government.

“The Authority has incurred direct costs in supporting the emergency response to this issue, such as traffic management, and is also incurring substantial ‘in-kind’ costs as a result of resources deployed to respond to the situation, such as community engagement, safeguarding and other social services matters, prevention and response including public health issues, civil contingencies matters, and communications,” she added.

Concerns about the impact of the arrangement to relocate asylum seekers to Penally on the local authority had been raised with the Home Office since the camp’s use began, and “have continued to be aired.

“Given the significant input required of the Authority, the message relating to funding is not constructive. It is obvious that the Council are incurring significant direct costs, and also substantially losing out through resources having to be redeployed to address the various matters involved in responding.

“Notwithstanding, Pembrokeshire County Council remains committed to responding in a constructive manner alongside all partners, but the matter of costs incurred remains a concern for the Authority,” the statement adds.

Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn is also calling for greater funding for Dyfed-Powys Police with extra money only available once a 1 per cent budget level is reached, which is approximately £1.1million.

He has said previously that cost could reach £1.2million for the year.

The Police and Crime Panel will decide at its meeting on Friday, February 5 whether to send a letter to the Home Secretary, Policing Minister and all MPs in the force area calling for full reimbursement of Dyfed-Powys Police for all costs incurred in policing Penally camp, even if below the usual 1 per cent special grant threshold.

A report to the meeting states that the Home Office decision to use Penally camp has “placed a significant operational and financial burden on Dyfed-Powys Police.”

To the end of December 2020 policing the camp has involved 13,919 hours of officer time, of which 9,681 hours are overtime, at a cost of £297,000, it adds.

Minister for immigration compliance Chris Philp said:

“The Government has a statutory obligation to support asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute, including through the provision of accommodation, whilst their claims are being considered. Penally is a self-contained site and asylum seekers’ basic needs are provided and paid for by the Home Office.

“We continue to work closely in partnership with the police, local authority and other stakeholders, with a clear focus on the safety and wellbeing of both those accommodated at the site and local residents.

“We have already agreed to provide £2.5million of Special Grant funding to Dyfed-Powys Police up to September 2021.”

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