In September 2015, then-Prime Minister David Cameron pledged Britain would take in 20,000 Syrian refugees. So far, UK councils have promised to resettle 8,146 refugees, but a July 2016 survey in the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) reveals 53 of 148 English local authorities surveyed cannot afford the cost. Is such a commitment financially viable for UK councils after government austerity cuts?
Government pledging financial support
As of July 2016, English councils have committed to housing 600 refugees in Lancashire, 560 in Gloucestershire and 520 in Kent. Meanwhile, 11 of London’s 32 boroughs plan to take in 521 refugees and Greater Manchester’s ten councils are unable to provide any aid.
To help local authorities, the government is contributing £8,520 per refugee over a five-year period for accommodation, transport and other requirements. Children aged three to four yield £2,250 for education, which rises to £4,500 for those aged five to 18 years old. However, some council leaders believe the financial aid will only cover 70–80% of overall costs.
London councils under pressure
Since 2010, English local authority funding has fallen by 33% in government austerity cuts, leaving some areas unable to afford the added cost of rehousing refugees. LGC reported two London boroughs as saying they could not offer aid due to “the added pressure it would have on their services”.
LGC’s research also revealed a geographic inconsistency between local authorities, with London pledging to settle 521 Syrians, while the northeast of England has promised to take 815. When explaining the variation, LGC Editor Nick Golding said English councils could not promise equal assistance: “Some, especially in London, are unable to offer housing support to people who grew up locally, such is the pressure on housing.”
Ultimately, the UK’s target of resettling 20,000 Syrians by 2020 will increase financial pressure on the English local authorities offering aid, with some leaders convinced the government’s support will not cover the entire cost.If you work for a local authority taking in Syrian refugees, please contact Dukes Bailiffs if you need any ethical debt recovery assistance to support your cash-flow and budget.