Tory councillors vote down plea to re-settle refugees in Northampton amid ‘shame on you’ heckles

Picture shows refugee children in a temporary camp, courtesy of Children on the Edge. Northamptonshire County Council has informed the Government it cannot take any refugees in.
Picture shows refugee children in a temporary camp, courtesy of Children on the Edge. Northamptonshire County Council has informed the Government it cannot take any refugees in.

Jeers of “hang your heads in shame” greeted a decision not to rehouse Syrian refugees in Northampton at the Guildhall last night.

Last week Northamptonshire County Council said it could not take in a single family fleeing war in refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey and Syria because of its dire financial state.

Members of the public walk out of the Guildhall last night after a vote to house 50 Syrian refugee families in the town was defeated.

Members of the public walk out of the Guildhall last night after a vote to house 50 Syrian refugee families in the town was defeated.

Last night a Labour motion called on the borough council to over-rule that decision and take in 50 families over the next five years without the help of the county.

But it was turned down by the Conservative group members in a recorded vote, prompting jeers and slow clapping from some in the public gallery.

“Hang your heads in shame” said one man repeatedly at the Conservative group, prompting mayor Councillor Penelope Flavell to call for a security guard.

Explaining the decision to vote against the motion leader of the council, Councillor Mary Markham, said: “Yes we have housing and the private rented sector might come forward to help house some of these people - but we have 3,700 people on our social housing waiting list as it is.

“The county council has made it clear that with their multi-million pound deficit they don’t have the money to support these people.”

Several members of the public came to the Guildhall last night to speak on the motion.

“I think it’s right that a prominent town like Northampton offers support to these people,” said speaker Kate Scott.

Ron Mendell said a promise to take in 50 families was a “modest proposal.”

“We are not talking about a motion that will bankrupt this council,” he said.

Phil Leach said: “Do you not think the refugees have been through enough?

“We cannot turn our backs on this crisis.”

Labour group leader, Councillor Danielle Stone said the Government funding for a single Syrian refugee family could total up to £40,000 in the first year.

“This is really not a party political motion, this is a humanitarian motion,” she told the chamber. “We have agreed in this chamber before that we would support the re-settlement of Syrian people, we need to honour that.”

Only Tory Councillor Tony Ansell abstained on the vote.

The Government has pledged to take in 20,000 of the refugees over the next five years. Now it is certain there will be none re-settled in Northamptonshire under the scheme.