People removed from hotel housing asylum seekers were not homeless, council says

Mansfield's Old Town Hall
By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

Three people who left a Mansfield hotel to make way for asylum seekers were not homeless, a council report has shown.

The Home Office and its contractor Serco placed 34 people into the unnamed hotel on November 12 as they tackle an unprecedented backlog in asylum claims.

At the time Councillor Ben Bradley (Con), Mansfield MP and Nottinghamshire County Council leader, described the hotel as “not the right area” to house them.

He also revealed three people were “turfed out” of the hotel and then presented themselves to Mansfield District Council as homeless.

But now the council has revealed three assessments later took place and none of the three met the criteria to be classed as homeless rough sleepers.

They have since found alternative accommodation, the authority added.

It follows claims from local politicians that both Serco and the Home Office were not handling the situation well and had not communicated properly with local authorities.

Cllr Bradley confirmed on Tuesday (November 29) that he is meeting with ministers to discuss the hotel and revealed the asylum seekers are still on site.

Earlier this month, he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It’s incredibly frustrating.

“In doing so, they have turfed out residents who were already in there for temporary accommodation and who have presented themselves as homeless.

“It’s not on, to be honest. There’s a bigger picture here, which is tackling the issue and stopping people from coming.

“But when it comes to communication, they’ve picked an area of town that’s not the right area and is not the right provision.

“They’ve not told us about it, they’ve not told us what services we need to put around it, and they’ve made people homeless in Mansfield as a result.”

However, a new council report revealed the people who presented themselves as homeless were in fact self-funding their stay at the hotel.

The Labour-run council adds that it does not use hotels for homeless cases and would know if the hotel was being used as temporary accommodation.

The issue will be discussed by the council’s overview and scrutiny community services committee on December 6.

In a report, Paul Dawson, the authority’s housing solutions team leader, said:  “The placement of asylum seekers in a local hotel did not lead to homeless families being displaced.

“As an authority, we do not use hotels for homeless cases and any other local authority placing applicants out of [their] area is legally bound to inform us when a placement is made.

“The council had three initial approaches from those displaced from the hotel.

“However, none of them were homeless under homeless legislation; all were self-funding at the hotel and found alternative accommodation elsewhere.”

The Mansfield hotel is one of many sites across the UK being used by the Home Office and contractors like Serco to bring down the asylum backlog.

Another hotel in Long Eaton, which also has not been named, is being used for the same purposes.

Serco said earlier this month it “did not remove existing residents from the hotel”.

It says people are asked to leave sites “for the safety and wellbeing” of people in its care after recent activities from some far-right groups.

A Home Office spokesperson added: “The number of people arriving in the UK who require accommodation has reached record levels and has put our asylum system under incredible strain.

“The use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable – there are currently more than 37,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £5.6m a day.

“The use of hotels is a short-term solution and we are working hard with local authorities to find appropriate accommodation.”

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