Local councils forced to reject Syrian refugees without more Government funding

Sheffield City Council is willing to accommodate them if funding is secured beyond a year, despite claims by Nick Clegg that it is 'shutting the door on some of the most vulnerable people in the world'

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Indy Politics

Syrian refugees are being rejected by local authorities across England who say the Government is not offering enough money to fund their support.

Councils in Sheffield, Manchester and Hull have all told the Home Office that they would need more financial help to accept those fleeing conflict in Syria.

These local authorities point out that the Government’s Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme only guarantees funding for a year – yet those seeking sanctuary are expected to stay for a minimum of five years. This view is understood to be shared by several other councils.

So far Bradford and one other unnamed council are the only local authorities to have given a firm commitment to host Syrian refugees, though others are in negotiations. Bradford has offered to look after 50 Syrians.

Nick Clegg was furious with Labour-run Sheffield City Council for its stance, with the Deputy Prime Minister accusing them of refusing to accept refugees. But the council insists it has always been willing to accommodate them if funding is secured beyond a year.

Mr Clegg, whose Sheffield Hallam constituency is run by the council, said: “It came as a huge shock and disappointment to me that the council leader has decided to shut the door on some of the most vulnerable people in the world, without any consultation with local people at all.

“I’m proud of Sheffield’s standing as a city of sanctuary, but I’m deeply concerned that local Labour councillors are tarnishing that reputation by refusing to help vulnerable women and children displaced by the terrible conflict in Syria.”

Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield City Council, replied: “This is outrageous of Nick Clegg – who is not telling the truth. Sheffield has not refused to resettle Syrian refugees. I am concerned about the effect the Syrian crisis has had on thousands of people which is why we wrote to the Government on 6 March making it clear we were willing to take refugees, but the problem is that the programme the Government has designed only offers funding for one year.”

Refugees will require substantial support for health, social care and education “well beyond the first 12 months after their arrival”, Ms Dore argued. Hull and Manchester also want more funding guarantees before agreeing to take on the refugees.

An insider at one refugee charity, who did not want to be identified, said: “The local authorities feel they’re not being offered enough support from the Government and that the full cost implications over the longer term aren’t being acknowledged.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “A number of local authorities have indicated that they would like to sign up to the scheme, and we are in discussions with other local authorities who have expressed an interest. But as the scheme is based on vulnerability – including children, people with medical needs and survivors of torture and violence – it would not be appropriate for us to release details of where individuals are being placed, as this risks undermining their privacy and recovery.”

A spokeswoman for Hull City Council said: “Hull City Council like all other authorities has received a request from the Home Office and we have replied seeking further clarity.”