It has been announced this week that the Metropole Hotel in Blackpool (originally built in 1776 and previously owned by Butlins), is to be used to house asylum seekers, with the council’s leader expressing serious concerns over the plans. The hotel is also next to Blackpool’s Cenotaph, a further slap-in-the-face to the thousand’s of homeless British ex-servicemen.
The Council has been advised by the Home Office that around 220 people will be moved into temporary accommodation at the seafront hotel, in the heart of Blackpool, from the end of this week as part of the Government’s response to the growing number of migrants crossing the Channel.
The relocation has been approved by the Home Office despite the Council, police and health leaders raising several questions about the rationale of placing vulnerable people in such a high-profile tourist location without undertaking any proper consultation with public services.
Councillor Lynn Williams, Leader of Blackpool Council, released the following statement:
“We have tried to make sense of this with the Home Office and raised numerous questions about how they arrived at this decision. Most of those questions have fallen on deaf ears.
“We fully understand the pressures that the government is facing in terms of the numbers of asylum-seekers crossing the channel but, at the same time, the Home Office needs to understand that it cannot place people simply because it has a marriage of convenience with certain hotel operators.
“As a local authority, we are enormously sympathetic to the plight of refugees and are working with Lancashire to support the resettlement of Afghan refugees, but this is a very different situation. Such placements can only be made if there has been a thorough risk assessment undertaken as well as consultation with those agencies that will have to provide assistance for people who are in need of high levels of support.
“Given that the Home Office has avoided most of the questions we have asked, we have no details of where these 223 asylum-seekers are from, what specific needs they might have and how long they are going to be placed in temporary accommodation in the middle of one of our main tourism areas.”
In addition, the Council says there is no evidence that any risk assessments have been undertaken with regard to location, appropriateness of accommodation or impact on the local community.
Councillor Williams said the Home Office had presented the Council with a fait accompli and seemed determined to go ahead with the placements regardless of the serious issues raised.
She said there was a visible lack of understanding of the town illustrated by the fact that the placement was being made at the start of the peak Illuminations season and in a hotel, which is run by Britannia Hotels, located in the heart of the tourism zone.
She said it felt more like “a marriage of convenience” between the Home Office and Britannia Hotels than a carefully thought-out plan as to how best to place asylum-seekers in a suitable location with appropriate and sustainable wraparound services in place.
The Home Office has hit back at Blackpool Council who have criticised the decision made by the Government department to house more than 220 asylum seekers in a Blackpool hotel.
A spokesman for the Home Office, overseen by Home Secretary Priti Patel, said: “These claims are incorrect. The Home Office wrote to the chief executive of Blackpool Council and the local MPs on the planned use of the Metropole hotel on 25 August.
“The council replied to us on 27 August and we submitted a written response yesterday.
“All the hotels the Home Office uses must meet relevant health and safety legislation and provide their latest health and safety risk assessment.”
Local MPs Scott Benton and Paul Maynard have criticised the decision, along with the former MP Gordon Marsden, who hit out at the Government, saying that this has been done before.
He said: “This is a badly thought out and potentially dangerous move – where the Home Office has completely ignored the protests and warnings of Blackpool council and the welfare of the town , its people and businesses , and the needs of the asylum seekers themselves.
“The Home Office has had past form on this. When I was chair of a seaside and coastal towns group in Parliament back in the 2000s , their officials tried to move many 100s of refugees and asylum seekers to Blackpool and other coastal and seaside towns , and I led a delegation of our MP members to the Minister who reversed the decision.”
Brittania Hotels Again
Britannia Hotels, who run the Metropole Hotel, have appeared regularly in our posts. In fact we took a closer look at the hotel chain in this post which can be viewed here.
Joint-owner Alexander Langsam was dubbed “the Asylum King” after raking in £14 million in a lucrative Home Office contract to house refugees in his budget hotels in 2014-15.