Council leaders have joined forces to raise serious concerns with the Home Office about Leicestershire taking more than its fair share of asylum seekers.
In a joint letter to the Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick MP, Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council, and Richard Blunt, leader of North West Leicestershire District Council, say that they’re ‘extremely concerned’ about the expected arrival of 220 asylum seekers at the best Western Yew Lodge Hotel in Kegworth.
A lack of information and communication from Serco, the contractor responsible for the national distribution of asylum seekers, has also been singled out for criticism by the leaders, as has the suitability of the hotel in Kegworth.
“Public services are already at bursting point. It places extra pressure on already stretched frontline services,” said Nick Rushton.
“When people arrive with little or no notice, we have to divert resources away from other priorities. It’s unacceptable to place extra pressure on councils without providing more funding, so that we can do the right thing by these people in ensuring they get the care and attention they need.
“With over 600 asylum seekers in Leicestershire, compared to just under 100 in Nottinghamshire, we’ve asked the Government to explain the uneven distribution.
“The Covid pandemic showed that local government knows their communities better than Whitehall does – and certainly better than Serco – and can ably support national priorities. It’s disappointing that lessons don’t seem to have been learned.”
In their letter, the leaders urge Mr Jenrick to reconsider their use of the hotel, which sits in Packington Hill.
It is causing a great deal of concern in the village of Kegworth and more consultation should be provided they say.
“This is a major change in somebody’s backyard and people should have a say in it, so we are speaking on behalf of the people of Kegworth,” said Mr Blunt.
“Kegworth is a small settlement. It has limited facilities and certainly none to support the cultural and religious needs of those to be housed at the hotel. Voluntary and community sector assistance available in the village will also be unable to provide a significant amount of support. The hotel and its leisure facilities previously available to local residents will no longer be available to them.
“The community is already expressing its concern loudly in opposition to the proposed use of the hotel. We are concerned that the settlement of such a large number of asylum seekers in such a small settlement will inevitably create tensions which may not materialise in larger settlements with a wider range of facilities available.”