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Agenda item

Urgent Items - Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) and Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) Scheme

Any other items of business, which the Leader agrees to consider as a matter of urgency.

Minutes:

Councillor Richard Clewer, Leader of the Council, presented a report on an urgent item in respect of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) and Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) Scheme.

 

Councillor Clewer stated he wanted the council to do everything it could to assist with the schemes and help the Afghan citizens in need of assistance, particularly given Wiltshire’s status as a military county. An offer of providing at least 20 properties for refugee families had been made to government, and had sought to put pressure on the Ministry of Defence to offer further assistance given vacant military housing.

 

The Deputy leader of the Council, Councillor Laura Mayes, provided further details of Afghan children currently in the county, and school provision and activities provided, with teams working with the adults to improve English skills. Councillor Philip Alford, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Housing, also confirmed that the housing being offered was not in competition with Wiltshire residents through Homes4Wiltshire.

 

Councillor Graham Wright, as Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee, welcomed the item, which he had been approach regarding as an urgent item.

 

Councillor Ian Thorn thanked the Leader for bringing the item forward, and agreed with comments from the Leader around a moral responsibility to assist and disappointment at the current position of the Ministry of Defence. He sought details on financial support and implications in the longer term. The Leader stated there would be amounts over three years of the scheme, though unlike the previous Syrian refugee scheme it was expected more of the families would have at least one member with reasonable English comprehensive given many had worked with British armed forces, which may help them adjust sooner, though he noted the trauma all those arriving will have faced.

 

Councillor Ruth Hopkinson supported the comments made and noted the importance of community groups in helping refugee arrivals.


Councillor Gavin Grant asked for details of relevant ministers or Ministry of Defence personnel who Members could contact to lobby them, which the Leader said could be provided. He thanked Danny Kruger MP for his work on the issue.

 

Councillor Bridget Wayman supported efforts to approach the Ministry of Defence and Councillor Derek Walters raised the possibility of using empty National Trust properties. Councillor Tony Trotman noted there may be some security issues with residential properties owned by the military near to its sites, though the Leader noted significant checks had been made for all arrivals.

 

At the conclusion of discussion, and noting that any decision would need to be taken individually by the Leader under delegated executive authority due to the nature of the meeting, the Cabinet was asked for its view and it was,

 

Resolved:

 

That the Leader of the Council should approve:

 

1)    The offer to Government of Wiltshire’s commitment to house 20 households in long term settlement through the ACRS and ARAP schemes;

 

2)    The acceptance to receive funding of £20,520 per person over the 3 year duration of the scheme, with an estimated total value of £1.6m;

 

3)    The acceptance of additional funding in the first year only of up to £4,500 per child and £850 per adult for Education and English Language respectively as well as £2,600 per person for Health;

 

4)    The £28 per person per night funding to provide the wrap around support required to support citizens at the bridging hotel within Wiltshire;

 

5)    The acceptance of funding provided by the Afghan housing costs fund.

 

Reasons

In line with the Councils constitution, to allow the acceptance of funding
associated with the offer to resettle, long term, up to 20 households through the ACRS as well as the wrap around funding to support those citizens in the
bridging hotel

Supporting documents:

 

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