West Midlands councils withdraw legal challenge after Government adopts new policy on procuring accommodation for dispersed asylum seekers

Seven West Midlands councils have dropped a legal challenge against the Home Office over the asylum dispersal scheme following the introduction of new guidance.

The local authorities - Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent - noted that the Home Office had introduced a new policy for procuring accommodation for asylum seekers, which would see local authorities across England, Scotland and Wales accommodate a "fairer distribution of asylum seekers".

In September 2021, the seven councils suspended their participation in the then voluntary scheme after they said repeated attempts to urge the Home Secretary to immediately review and reform the current system had failed.

They argued that the scheme only had a small proportion of mostly urban councils join without any additional funding, which put pressure on already stretched resources.

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The Home Office contested the councils' decision, and, as a result, the authorities filed a legal claim arguing they volunteered in good faith and should be free to pull out.

The councils added that "failing to respect our decision is an irrational, undemocratic abuse of power – volunteering authorities should have the same rights as those that have previously never volunteered and still refuse to do so".

A statement issued this week on behalf of the councils said: "Collectively, our respective local authorities have been at the forefront of welcoming asylum seekers to our region for more than 10 years as we firmly believe it is the right thing to do.

"However, in recent years, we have become increasingly concerned about the fairness of the asylum seekers dispersal system and the lack of funding available to those wanting to support them as well as to the people themselves who need it most."

It later added: "In April 2022 – just weeks before the scheduled High Court hearing – the Home Office announced a new Full Dispersal Policy for asylum seekers which addressed each of the key points of our legal action. This makes clear the Home Office has adopted a new policy of procuring accommodation for dispersed asylum seekers in the areas of all local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales whether or not they have volunteered."

The councils welcomed the new policy, "which will see all regions in England, Scotland and Wales taking a fairer distribution of asylum seekers, as well as a commitment to providing additional funding to local authorities for these purposes and using more suitable accommodation resulting in a reduction of pressures on local authorities".

They added: "We now look forward to closely monitoring the implementation of the new policy to ensure a fairer distribution of asylum seekers and system of funding, while continuing our proud and long running commitment to welcoming those seeking asylum to our towns, cities and boroughs."

Adam Carey

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