Latest Public Sector News

02.10.15

Councils to receive ‘additional funding’ past first year of refugee settlements

Local authorities will receive “additional funding” to assist with costs incurred in refugee resettlements, but it remains unclear how many years’ worth of expenses will be covered.

In a letter published in the Times, Richard Harrington MP, minister for Syrian refugees, said that extra cash would be handed to councils to “ensure [they] can plan ahead and continue to respond to the overwhelmingly generous response of the British people”.

He said that money would be granted in the “future years” following the one year’s worth of fully-funded costs by central government using the international aid budget – but did not specify how much.

Harrington, who was appointed to his new role in September, added that Whitehall would be “working closely” with the LGA on how these costs will operate – but that “this commitment gives local authorities the certainty they need to ensure that vulnerable refugees get the help they desperately need now and in the future”. 

In a separate letter sent to Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s asylum, migration and refugee task group, the Home Office said: “We understand that councils need certainty about the financing of the scheme in order to enter into contracts and commit resources.

“We will be working closely with local government to develop the process for drawing down the funding in order that this certainty can be given, including to those councils offering help under the existing scheme.”

The letter, penned by Paul Morrison of the department’s ‘resettlement gold command’, added that the arrangements will be applied to all cases since the 20,000 refugee take-up was announced.

Morrison noted that the Home Office might also contact councils or regional strategic migration partnerships “in the short term” about potential participation in the current resettlement scheme, “with a view to many more refugees arriving before the end of the year”.

Betts: Clarity needed over ‘urgent’ refugee issue

Last week, the chair of the Commons communities and local government committee, Labour’s Clive Betts MP, sent a letter to the DCLG boss demanding clarity over how much support councils will receive to deal with the “urgent” refugee issue.

In his letter to Greg Clark MP, Betts said that there had been discrepancies in Whitehall’s cash promises, having initially promised to cover at least a five-year period’s worth of costs, including healthcare, housing and other expenses.

But, according to Betts, home secretary Theresa May contradicted this by saying that costs would only be covered for the first year.

Betts said at the time: “The government has made a commitment to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees and ministers should match this with a promise to cover the full costs incurred by local councils – not just for the first year – to deliver this national policy.”

On 7 September, chancellor George Osborne announced that money would be diverted from the UK’s £11.8bn international aid budget to help councils cover the settling costs of the refugees.

But he made clear at the time that these decisions were “short term” and that, in the long term, the government would need a “fundamental rethink” of their aid policy.

(Top image shows eight-month-old Maria and her father Ibrahim from near Damascus, Syria, on a train having recently arrived in Europe. Credit: AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)

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