By Jack Doyle
Last updated at 2:24 AM on 9th October 2010
The largest council in the country is to stop providing homes for asylum seekers – so it can offer the properties to locals.
Birmingham City Council said last night that it had seen a surge in the number of existing residents who found themselves homeless in the aftermath of the economic slump.
Currently, nearly 200 homes are handed to asylum seekers who have been sent to the city while their applications are being processed by the UK Border Agency.
But the council is to cancel its contract with UKBA so the homes can instead be given to those who hail from the city.
Councillor John Lines, Birmingham’s cabinet member for housing, said the decision was ‘in the interests of local people’. He explained that the council expects nearly 8,000 applications for homes this year alone.
‘Over the last year, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of homeless people in Birmingham and we must help the citizens of this city first and foremost,’ he said.
‘With a long waiting list for homes, we really need all our properties for our people in these difficult economic times. I believe the UK Border Agency should find somewhere else to carry out their duties.’
Mr Lines said delays within UKBA meant hundreds of asylum seekers were obtaining British citizenship while they waited for their cases to be decided.
‘When they have been given citizenship the city of Birmingham has to treat them as citizens and give them one of our rare homes,’ he added.
‘I’m putting hundreds of Brummies in bed and breakfast, local people who possibly through no fault of their own are homeless.
‘I couldn’t sit here and allow the situation where Birmingham people have had to tolerate that whilst the border agency has got up to 200 of my homes for people who have come here for political asylum.’
Under the five-year contract, the council provided 190 properties to asylum seekers, but with turnover it meant up to 1,000 staying in the city every year.
The contract – which also involved Wolverhampton, Dudley and Coventry councils – comes to an end in June next year and will not be renewed, Mr Lines said.
Wolverhampton council is also expected to follow suit and stop housing asylum applicants, he added. Birmingham is run by a joint Liberal Democrat and Tory coalition, and is seen as indicating possible policy directions for the Government.
The UK Border Agency’s Regional Director for the Midlands and East of England, Gail Adams, said: ‘We’re disappointed by Birmingham City Council’s decision to withdraw from the West Midlands Consortium.
‘The Consortium’s existing contract will continue until June next year. UKBA will manage the transition to new accommodation in accordance with the terms of the contract.’