Opposition councillors have raised concerns around refugee housing plans after a recent ministerial visit.

Cherwell opposition councillors have expressed concern in an open letter to the leader of the council about the recent visit to the area by Refugees Minister Lord Richard Harrington.

The minister was invited to visit Cherwell as part of a motion brought by the deputy leader of the official opposition group Ian Middleton, voicing concerns about the long-term prospects for refugees trying to enter the private rental market after their period of support under the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme ends.

The invitation to the minister was extended after an amendment was agreed to the motion suggesting a cross-party meeting aimed at highlighting how co-operative working can help deal with the problems faced by refugees and local councils.

As housing authorities, there is likely to be increased pressure on district councils if refugees become homeless as a result of failure to find suitable privately rented accommodation.

The Progressive Oxfordshire motion suggested ways this could be addressed, including the setting up of a government guarantee scheme for landlords.

There has so far been very little detail on if such assurances were obtained from the minister.

Read more: Government minister trying to secure more funding for Ukrainian refugee hosts

Mr Middleton said: “I have written to the leader of the council on behalf of the Progressive Oxfordshire Group expressing our disappointment that we and other parties were not invited to meet the Minister to raise the concerns that were included in the original text of our motion.

“This seems like a lost opportunity to show the co-operative approach we were hoping to foster.

“We remain worried that the unique pressures placed on refugees in trying to obtain private rented accommodation without having the kinds of references required by many landlords were not robustly highlighted to the Minister.

“Failure to provide support could put intolerable pressure on our housing services at a time when they are already dealing with the fallout from the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

“It’s ironic that the invitation to Lord Harrington was intended to highlight the positive aspects of co-operative working, yet the council leadership didn’t see fit to apply that to their own approach to these problems.

“All councillors are involved in supporting refugees in their wards and as such this should have been a cross-party discussion rather than what appears to be a political exercise.”

Lord Harrington visited Southwold Community Centre in Bicester on Monday, August 15, to meet with leader of Cherwell District Council, Councillor Barry Wood.

The Minister met some of the Ukrainian and Afghan refugees the council has helped welcome to north Oxfordshire and heard how partnership working is fundamental to the success of resettlement work at the local level.


Read more from this author

This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1

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