Hertfordshire County Council at 'tipping point' in supporting refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan

Hertfordshire County Council has told the Government it is at a “tipping point” in supporting refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan, and has urged other parts of the country to do more.

By Matthew Smith, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 4th April 2022, 3:31 pm
Updated Monday, 4th April 2022, 5:19 pm

Deputy chief executive of the council, Scott Crudgington, said it is willing to “do more than its fair share”, but resources were being stretched.

The warning came after the council said more hotels had signed up to temporarily re-house refugees, but there were up to 700 refugees from Afghanistan still waiting in Hertfordshire hotels for a permanent home.

At a meeting of the council’s Resources and Performance Cabinet Panel on April 1, officers presented a report of the council’s performance in the third quarter of 2021-22, which included a mention of an increase of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children entering care.

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Hertfordshire County Council

Councillor Sharon Taylor (Labour, Stevenage) noted these figures would not yet include any impact from Ukrainian resettlement schemes, and asked whether the council had the resources to deal with any further rises.

Mr Crudgington, said the authority is committed to helping those in need but admitted resources were on the cusp of being stretched. He said the authority was beginning to feel the effects of arrivals from Afghanistan and Hong Kong, with more refugees expected from Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe.

He said: “What we are facing is a significant increase in support that the Government that is asking lots of council to undertake, but Hertfordshire because of our geography is picking up more than most other parts of the country.

“That’s overlaid with Ukrainian arrivals, [and] small boat arrivals. Now the weather is improving and the channel is starting to get calmer the Home Office is preparing for a significant increase in small boat arrivals, and they’ve been looking to establish a range of contingency hotels in Hertfordshire. I was notified of four or five over the last two weeks to be established in different boroughs across the county.”

“Let’s also not forget, we are continuing to look after in the region of 600 to 700 Afghans as a result of matching that is still yet to take place for their permanent home, either here in Hertfordshire or elsewhere in the country.

Mr Crudgington said the council had told the government it is starting to reach capacity in the voluntary sector and within councils, and would like to see other parts of the country do more.

He added: “Also overlaid, we’ve had quite significant migration in different parts of the county, particularly in the St Albans area, relating to those coming from Hong Kong.

“With all of that in mind, we’ve made some very strong representations to Government that we feel Hertfordshire is absolutely wanting to do more than its fair share of support, but we are starting to hit a tipping point in relation to the support both the voluntary sector, and our also both our district and the county council is able to support the knock-on consequences of providing this level of support.

“I don’t want to be misinterpreted, we are continuing to respond and deal with all the challenges that are being faced, but we would just argue that we are starting to hit a tipping point now, and other areas of the country should be looking to take part of the share as well.”