Home Office slammed for imposing cost of Penally asylum camp on Welsh council
Katy Jenkins, local democracy reporter
The cost to Pembrokeshire tax payers for the Home Office’s use of Penally camp for refugees has been brought back under the spotlight by the area’s county councillor.
Cllr Jonathan Preston has written to south Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart saying “the people of Pembrokeshire are now expected to cover 58% of the costs of providing essential services to the Home Office operation at Penally barracks.
“Despite the best efforts of Pembrokeshire County council financial officers and the Leader of the council the Home Office will not reimburse anything above £39,700 of the £93,848 invoice.”
Cllr Preston said that this comes on the back of the “significant impact experienced by the residents of Penally, the people of Pembrokeshire and vulnerable adults in our care during the repurposing of Penally training unit” which he said should not be underestimated.
The site was repurposed last year before being handed back by Home secretary Priti Patel in March, and “the disruption, uncertainty and absence of any consultation with the local authority or the Penally community during a global pandemic was unparallel with anything our small village has experienced during peacetime”, adds Cllr Preston.
He is calling on Mr Hart, who is also Secretary of State for Wales, to support his attempts to recover the remaining £54,000 which he said could be put to a lot of good use in the community, adding “I would welcome more robust representation at Westminster for the constituents of Penally and Pembrokeshire.”
A breakdown of expenses is included with Cllr Preston’s email, with figures from the council’s director of resources, including the cost of officer time, internal jobs and other invoices.
This document indicates a total of £83,858.71 plus forecast of £309.12 and an additional invoice of £393.75 although Cllr Preston and council leader Cllr David Simpson both quote a total of £93,848.95.
Clarification of the figures has been requested from Pembrokeshire County Council.
In a letter to the director of resettlement, asylum support and integration at the Home Office, Cllr Simpson states: “I am disheartened that the way in which you repay the hard work and dedication of Council staff and Pembrokeshire residents and taxpayers in supporting the asylum seekers is to make them pay for it as well.”
The Home Office has said previously that it “does not provide additional funding to local authorities anywhere in the UK in connection with any of the local costs incurred under the Home Office’ provision of accommodation for asylum seekers.”
The Home Office and Mr Hart have been contacted for comment.
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