EXCLUSIVE: Northamptonshire will not be taking in Syrian families fleeing from war

Under-pressure Northamptonshire County Council has told the Government it cannot take any Syrian refugees because of its current financial state.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 11:24 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 12:34 pm
Picture shows refugee children in a temporary camp, courtesy of Children on the Edge. Northamptonshire County Council has informed the Government it cannot take any refugees in.

The announcement comes in response the Labour opposition on Northampton Borough Council, which today called for the town to take in 50 families fleeing the war-torn country over the next four years.

But a spokesman for the county council has now confirmed the county will not be housing any families at all, who would only be covered by Government funding for the first two years of their life in the UK.

The spokesman said: “Due to the ever-increasing demand for public services in Northamptonshire coupled with reduced funding from central Government, we have regrettably advised the Government that we’re unable to provide any resettlement opportunities for Syrian refugees.

“Northamptonshire’s population is growing rapidly and we have our highest ever level of unaccompanied asylum seeking children, as well as a record number of looked after children.

“Our schools, social care and other support services are already under significant pressures. For instance, we know we will need to provide 31 new schools in the county by 2020 to cope with growing pupil numbers. “Therefore, we regret we are unable to provide adequate support services for resettlement.”

It puts an end to months of speculation that Northamptonshire would be playing a part in re-settling a portion of 20,000 asylum seekers the Government plans to take in by 2020.

Several councils in the UK have agreed to take on a share already. All 21 councils in Yorkshire and Humber have signed up to a deal which will see them taking in a share of 1,500 refugees.

It is unlikely the district and borough councils in Northamptonshire could take on refugees without the support of the over-arching county council, which has been negotiating with Whitehall on the issue.

The county council is also the authority responsible for schools and social services, and has recently cleared a budget cut of £65 million next year.

However Labour leader of the borough council, Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) says the move not to take in any asylum seekers at all is “outrageous.”

“This amazes me because the Government will pay for support for the first two years - enough time for families to become self-sufficient.

“In Nottingham some of the families became self-sufficient after six months.

“A lot of the Syrian refugees are professionals who are fleeing violence and chaos - they are not coming here to take they are coming here to give.”

Councillor Stone says the borough council should commit to take in refugees of its own accord and will deliver a speech on the matter at the full council meeting next Monday.

But leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor Mary Markham, said: “We know that the successful resettlement of refugees is dependent on the provision of suitable school places, social care, personal support and health care.

“Northamptonshire County Council has advised the Government that the county would not be able to resettle Syrian refugees due to the existing pressure on services. Therefore, unfortunately Northampton Borough Council will not be in a position to resettle Syrian refugees in the town.”