The Leader of Blackpool Council has accused the Home Office of acting “in a way that smacks of a deliberate move to frustrate the justice system”, after asylum seekers were placed in a local hotel ahead of a court hearing of the authority’s application for an injunction.
The BBC has reported that 141 people were understood to have arrived at the hotel over the weekend.
Cllr Lynn Williams said the council had “strongly and repeatedly” expressed to the hotel group in question, Serco and the Home Office, that the proposed use of the accommodation required planning consent which was not in place.
“That view has not changed. We also remain of the firm view that this hotel, in this location, is wholly unsuitable for the purpose of accommodating and supporting asylum seekers.”
Cllr Williams said that on Wednesday 22 September the council had been assured by the Home Office and Serco that it would be informed in advance of any arrivals, and that nobody would be placed in the hotel before Monday 27 September at the earliest.
“This assurance was given at the explicit request of local health leaders, who have repeatedly evidenced the unprecedented level of demand facing local health services,” she said.
“It is therefore extremely disappointing that the Home Office and Serco chose to break this agreement and place people over the weekend without notifying local services. This is no way for central government departments and their contractors to behave, and seriously undermines our trust in them.”
Cllr Williams said that the council was further disappointed that this had taken place after it informed all parties that as the hotel group was not accepting of its position, the local authority was seeking injunctive action that would prevent the proposed use.
“This would have been heard in court today (27 September) and I am saddened that they have acted in a way that smacks of a deliberate move to frustrate the justice system.”
Blackpool’s Leader continued: “We will be working with our partners to ensure that the appropriate support is in place for the very vulnerable families and children who have arrived with us here in Blackpool. Their placement at [this hotel] is not of their choosing and I hope our community will show compassion and understanding for the time that they are here.
“In the meantime, and in the light of the changed circumstances, we are reviewing our legal position and will take appropriate action if we are able to do so."
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Due to unprecedented demand we have had to use temporary accommodation such as hotels to manage demands on the asylum estate and we encourage all local authorities to volunteer their support and work with us.
“The Home Office has been clear about the use of asylum accommodation in Blackpool and we have been communicative with the Council’s Chief Executives, and have met with local stakeholders such as police and public health providers as well as officers from the local authority.
“All the hotels the Home Office uses must meet relevant health and safety legislation and provide their latest health and safety risk assessment.”
Earlier this month seven West Midlands councils launched a legal challenge against the Home Office over the voluntary asylum dispersal scheme for future asylum seekers.
In a statement the councils – Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, City of Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent – said repeated attempts to urge the Home Secretary to immediately review and reform the current system had failed.
The seven local authorities said they were left with no alternative but to inform the Home Office of their collective decision to suspend their partnership in the dispersal scheme. The Home Office contested this decision and the councils had, as a result, taken legal action through the High Court in Birmingham to resolve the issue, the statement said.