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Agenda item

Notices of Motion

Please note that the list of Motions is shown under Item 24 in the agenda pack.


The Council considered the under-mentioned Motion (Agenda item 24) submitted in the name of Councillor Denise Gaines relating to asylum seekers.

MOTION: As amended proposed by Councillor Denise Gaines and seconded by Councillor Laura Coyle.

That the Council note:

1.             As a result of the government’s asylum process and its efforts to reduce the backlog of asylum decisions, we are seeing increased demand for homelessness prevention services in West Berkshire.


2.             The home office has reduced the move-on period from 28 to 7 days, the time an asylum seeker must transition from their temporary accommodation to become independent. This is an unacceptably short period of transition.


3.             As a result of the Government’s decision to drastically reduce this move-on period there has been an escalation of homelessness and rough sleeping here in West Berkshire.


4.             The Government has effectively abdicated the responsibility for asylum seekers granted leave to remain and passed responsibility to local authorities.


5.             We have inherited the responsibility, from the Home office, to accommodate and support any person, given the status of right to remain, and currently residing in West Berkshire.


6.             This has placed a heavy burden on this authority and created an impossible target for us to source accommodation and house people within a very narrow time period of just 7 days. This burden comes without any additional funding from central government.


7.             We are committed, as an authority, to playing our part in welcoming and safeguarding the welfare of all people in our communities, including people granted right to remain.


8.             In an area the size of West Berkshire, rental properties and temporary accommodation is at a premium and having this additional pressure could make costs for this accommodation spiral in an already inflated market.



This Council therefore resolves to request that the Leader:


1.             Write to the Home Secretary to request that the Government:


- extend the transition period to a more realistic time period of 8 weeks to enable local authorities and the newly recognised refugees sufficient time to have all the official documentation in place to apply for work and to find accommodation;

- provide Local Authorities with emergency funding to support those who have a right to remain.


2.             Request the LGA as the national voice of local govt to lobby relevant ministers on the plight facing Local Authorities



3.             Ask the three MPs within the Council area to support this Motion and to raise at the highest levels of government.


The Chairman advised that Council would debate the Motion this evening in order to facilitate the discharge of business in accordance with Procedure Rule 4.9.8.


Councillor Denise Gaines introduced the motion and informed that the Government had failed West Berkshire and other Councils who opened their doors to asylum seekers.  The country always had a reputation of welcoming people in need and there were many conflicts in the world and many people suffering persecution. When an asylum seeker had been granted leave to remain, they still required support and this was where the Government were letting us down and leaving local authorities to pick up the pieces. West Berkshire Council currently had about 170 asylum seekers in our hotels at any one time and if they were given new status, they would only get 28 days to leave the hotel and start their new lives with no immediate access to funding. It had come to light that some were now being given as little as 7 days’ notice. The Housing Team and local charities tried to help as much as they could. Nationally there had been a 19% increase in asylum seekers awaiting assessment and as the Government looked to clear the backlog this would increase the pressure on local authorities, especially around housing support. The Council’s temporary accommodation was already over stretched and there was an increase in rough sleepers. As the Portfolio Holder responsible for housing, she would be setting up a steering group that would include local charities to look at this issue and homelessness in general. She would consult the Executive to see if it was possible to set up a hosting programme similar to that of the Ukrainian programme. She asked Council to support the motion.


AMENDED MOTION: Proposed by Councillor Ross Mackinnon was displayed on screen but the Monitoring Officer advised that under paragraph 14.2 of the meeting rules a proposed amendment must comply with the requirements, one of which was that it should not negate the original motion and it was her view that this amendment had the effect of negating the motion and she advised the Chairman that it should not be allowed.  The Chairman declined the amendment.

Councillor Ross Mackinnon made reference to a video the Leader had published in the Newbury Weekly News where he got two things right; that the public should be humane towards asylum seekers and that the two individuals sleeping in tents outside the Council Offices were not the fault of the Council. He did, however, feel that part of the motion was a falsehood. He stated that the Home Office had not reduced the period to leave hotels from 28 days to 7 days and this should have been checked before introducing the motion and making statements to the press. In one of the Leader’s television interviews it was clear to see from a letter displayed that 28 days notice was given. The Administration should have checked their facts before making falsehoods on this emotional issue. He agreed that it would be a challenge dealing with asylum seekers granted residency, but they should be treated no differently than local residents who also needed support. He agreed that the Council should work with the Government regarding housing issues, but he also requested that the Administration apologises for the false statements they had spread.

Councillor Jeff Brooks encouraged Members that if they wished to introduce amendments that they share them beforehand to give time for consideration and not to put froward amendments that change the original motion. With regards to the issue of asylum seekers he mentioned how last year some of them staying at the Regency Park Hotel put a lot of effort into helping the community and integrating as best as they could. The motion was to help those who were given the right to stay by extending their time to leave the hotel and giving them pathways to getting a home and job. The Government needed to work with local authorities to help those who have been granted the right to stay, those who may not speak very good English.  He supported the motion.

Councillor Stephanie Steevenson reiterated what had been said about some of the asylum seekers trying to help the local community as they had often offered Thatcham Town Council their time. This showed their willingness to be part of our community.

Councillor Nigel Foot made reference to how officers had worked daily with the gentlemen having to sleep in tents outside the Council and how Councillor Gaines had also engaged with them. These people were forced to sleep on our street after having to leave the hotel be it with 28 or 7 days notice. It was shameful that once they were granted the right to stay, they had to seek help from charities as the Government did not support them.

Under Paragraph 4.9.12 the Chairman proposed the extension of the meeting this was seconded by Councillor Barnet and was CARRIED.

Councillor Owen Jeffery mentioned that he had seen a letter sent to one of the asylum seekers informing them that they had less than a month to leave. These were people who had been assessed as having a legitimate reason to stay in our country but were being treated without dignity.

Councillor David Marsh said he had heard words such as a disgrace, but it was a disgrace that we are having to have this debate when the Government were stirring up hatred. He supported the motion.

Councillor Clive Taylor reiterated what had been said about the disgraceful situation that had resulted in the people having to sleep in tents outside the Council offices. It did not make a difference what length of notice they had been given this was about extending the notice period and giving them support.

Councillor Paul Kander said that he did not disagree with the comments on the time people were given to leave but he did disagree with the inaccurate statements that if not corrected would go down in history as facts.

Councillor Laura Coyle mentioned that the letter informing people of the needto leave the hotel did not give the recipient immediate access to benefits and work as suggested, it advises that you can remain in the country but you have to wait to get your residents permit. The motion was an urgent one as it had to highlight issues that were happening in our district outside the building. You could not just walk into an office and claim universal credit it took time to process. This motion was not about the national issue such as small boats crossing the channel but how we treated people who had been granted permanency. These were vulnerable people that needed our support and this needed an appropriate amount of time. With regards to homelessness the Government said that the Council had a 56 day period to help prevent homelessness by helping them find somewhere else to live so there was a discrepancy between how the asylum seekers were being treated.

In summing up Councillor Gaines said that the two people having to sleep in tents outside were not isolated incidents and that there were about 170 asylum seekers currently in hotels within our district. So we needed action now.

The Motion was put to the vote and declared CARRIED.

FOR the Motion:

Councillors Antony Amirtharaj, Phil Barnett, Jeff Brooks. Nick Carter, Patrick Clark, Heather Codling, Martin Colston, Iain Cottingham, Laura Coyle, Carolyne Culver, Billy Drummond, Nigel Foot, Denise Gaines, Stuart Gourley, Owen Jeffery, Janine Lewis, Alan Macro, David Marsh, Geoff Mayes, Erik Pattenden, Justin Pemberton, Vicky Poole, Christopher Read, Matt Shakespeare, Stephanie Steevenson, Louise Sturgess, Clive Taylor, Martha Vickers and Tony Vickers

AGAINST the Motion:



Councillors Dominic Boeck, Jeremy Cottam, Paul Dick, Clive Hooker, Paul Kander, Jane Langford, Ross Mackinnon, Richard Somner, Joane Stewart and Howard Woollaston.

Supporting documents: