Baroness Taylor of Stevenage, the leader of Stevenage Borough Council (SBC), has blasted the Home Office following its decision to accommodate up to 178 more asylum seekers in Stevenage. 

Her scathing comments came at a meeting of SBC’s executive on Wednesday, December 7. 

Baroness Taylor said that on December 3 “the council was notified that the Home Office would be placing up to 178 asylum seekers into [Hotel B] … until December 16.

"This is in addition to the 183 asylum seekers currently being accommodated at [Hotel A]”. 

While she said SBC “fully recognise our shared obligation to provide a safe environment for those seeking asylum”, she raised several concerns about the decision. 

These included the additional strain she said it would place on “very stretched public services” including education and healthcare, with “no new funding being provided by the government to cover the cost of these service interventions”. 

Baroness Taylor said that Home Office officials had “pre-determined that this hotel will primarily be used for single male asylum seekers, and that decision taken with no regard to the community safety concerns we’ve already raised" about Hotel A.

We reported recently that right-wing extremists have been targeting Herts hotels accommodating asylum seekers.

Baroness Taylor expressed concern that the decision on Hotel B was ”in danger of breaking about three or four decades of work on community cohesion, that’s unacceptable to me and I’m sure it is to everybody in our community”. 

SBC and Stephen McPartland, Stevenage’s MP, were only informed of the decision in “mid-November” and “as a result the council and partners have been unable to put in place any support for the asylum seekers”, which Baroness Taylor considered to be “extremely irresponsible” of the Home Office.

She also criticised the choice of hotel, saying she was “astonished and shocked” that the Home Office are now using a hotel they “discounted only eight months ago”. 

She described the move as “contrary to the partnership efforts being adopted through the work of the Regional Strategic Migration Partnership, where we’re all trying to tackle this challenge together, they’ve gone completely against all of that work".

While the hotel is booked by the Home Office for a two-week period, Baroness Taylor has “absolutely no confidence” that the hotel will “only be used for two weeks”, saying “I just don’t believe them and I don’t believe that they have any plan for where the asylum seekers they placed in there will go”. 

On the hotel’s website, the first date available for booking is January 6. 

Baroness Taylor said that SBC has “no idea … how long they’re expecting the asylum seekers to be in [Hotel A]”.

In response to the decision on Hotel B, Baroness Taylor – with Mr McPartland – has called for an urgent meeting with the home secretary Suella Braverman and requested that the home secretary visits [Hotel A] “to see just how unsuitable it is for the placing of asylum seekers”. 

Baroness Taylor is also “concerned” that this use of the hotel may “breach planning regulations” and “the council is seeking legal advice” on the matter. 

SBC’s chief executive has “asked Home Office officials that [Hotel B] is removed from any future consideration beyond December 16”. 

A motion on asking the government “to carry out an urgent review” of the policy for accommodating asylum seekers and the asylum-seeker application process will be raised at the full council meeting on Wednesday, December 14.  

Baroness Taylor concluded: “We’ll continue to raise it as loudly and as clearly as we can that this is not something we find in any way acceptable, as much on humanitarian grounds as anything else."

A Home Office spokesperson said there are currently more than 37,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing UK taxpayers £5.6million each day.

They also said that the asylum system is under “incredible strain” and that they cannot comment on operational arrangements for individual sites – including hotels – used for accommodation.

They 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.

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

Stephen McPartland has been contacted for comment.