Wigan migrant hotel will shut in March 2024, Home Office confirms
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Kilhey Court at Worthington, which only began accommodating asylum seekers in September, is one of 50 around the country which will lose this function over the next few months.
Confusion was caused last week when Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick sent a note to Wigan MP Lisa Nandy alerting her to the fact that “the migrant hotel in her constituency” would be one of those the Government intends to cease using.
The note didn’t recognise that there were in fact two such establishments in her constituency and both in Standish: the other being the Britannia at Almond Brook.
Wigan Today later received clairification that it was indeed Kilhey Court.
And now further details have emerged in a Home Office memo to Wigan MP Lisa Nandy.
It reads: “Further to the Immigration Minister’s announcement on October 24 regarding the first tranche of hotel closures, I am pleased to inform you that the Home Office is terminating the contract with Macdonald Kilhey Court as asylum accommodation and it will cease being used in March 2024, reflecting the contractual notice period on this property.
"Residents currently accommodated in the hotel will be moving to other parts of our asylum estate. They will be notified a minimum of five days in advance and moved by the Home Office in line with our published policies.
"While we expect impacts on local authorities to be minimal, we are putting in place additional resource to work with our accommodation providers and local partners to manage this process and minimise disruption, particularly focusing on families.
"As the Home Office end the use of asylum hotels we will continue to work with you to increase the supply of dispersal accommodation in line with your regional plan.
"Dispersal accommodation is signifiantly cheaper for the taxpayer and far less impactful on local communities. In March 2022 the Home Office established a Full Dispersal model and it remains critical that all parts of the UK play their full part in meeting this challenge.”
The announcement only in August that Kilhey Court was being handed over by Macdonald Hotels and Spas to the Home Office and migrant accommodation operator Serco caused a storm of protest.
Staff were axed, people with functions - including weddings - were forced to make 11th hour alternative arrangements, and there was a torrent of complaints about the venture itself.
Many Standish people felt aggrieved they should bear the responsibilities of a second migrant hotel, especially as the township’s infrastructure and amenities are already under huge strain because of the local house-building boom in recent years.
And more generally residents plus politicians of different colours felt Kilhey was a totally inappropriate location, being far from amenities and poorly served by public transport. It led to several demonstrations plus counter-protests in support of the migrants.
Yet within 50 days after Kilhey Court opened as a migrant hotel, it was confirmed that it would soon revert to its original function.
The Government has said that if the process and other parts of its policies aimed at reducing the migrant numbers and “stopping the small boats” crossing the English Channel succeed, then more hotels will be identified for closure. For certain the Britannia – which has accommodated migrants for eight years – is not in the first phase though.
Concerns have been raised that the process would lead to the occupants’ being made homeless and/or local authorities’ having to foot the bill for them.
But in an address to Parliament, Mr Jenrick said all those removed from the 50 hotels would be found places elsewhere in the country’s accommodation estate. Such space was available because there had been fewer migrant crossings recently while alternative capacity had also been increased.
Ms Nandy said: “After months of repeated representations from me, the police and Wigan Council, it’s welcome that the Government has finally recognised that Kilhey Court is unsuitable for vulnerable asylum seekers, with no support provided in a part of Wigan where the Britannia is already in use and schools, GP services and local infrastructure are already under significant strain.
“The root cause of the increase in hotel use is the chaos in the Home Office which has created a huge backlog of asylum applications and left many asylum seekers waiting years for a decision. It is time the Government finally got a grip on this.
“This has been a difficult time for people in Standish who have had to put up with media attention, protests and demonstrations over many months. I hope this decision marks the start of a more respectful relationship between the government and our community, where we are involved in decisions that affect us in future.”
A spokesman for residents’ group Standish Voice said: “This historic building, which has been an asset to village life for two generations, was always totally unsuitable for this activity – especially as Standish already has one hotel which has been used by asylum seekers for several years.
“The Government’s decision to not use Kilhey Court as a hostel, only two months after it closed as a hotel, shows how wrong-headed it was to do this in the first place.
“We would like to thank everyone who has worked hard to put pressure on the Government, the Home Office, Serco and Macdonald Hotels, including councillors, Wigan Council, our MP and members of the public.
“We hope Macdonald Hotels uses the money it has earned through this contract to refurbish Kilhey Court and restore it to its place as the best hotel in the Wigan area, and it can again be a venue Standish can be proud of.”
Coun Dane Anderton, cabinet member for police, crime and civil contingencies at Wigan Council, said:
“We welcome this news and thank all those who showed patience and persistence in ensuring our concerns were heard, and to all those who have supported our efforts to raise these concerns through the correct channels.
“Wigan borough has a strong track record of supporting non-UK and UK residents who are vulnerable and in need and we remain committed to supporting any individuals in a way that is as responsible and safe as possible.
“After we were notified of the Home Office decision to use a second hotel in our borough, we wrote to them on a number of occasions expressing our serious concerns that Kilhey Court was completely unsuitable and that they reconsider their decision.
“We are pleased that our concerns have now been heard and acted upon.
“However, we are yet again extremely disappointed that we have been consistently sidestepped by the Home Office in their decisions, and we insist that national government and the Home Office communicate more effectively with local authorities to ensure that residents and communities can be kept better informed.
“This is a short-term solution for a long-term issue and we’d urge government to properly address the issue to provide stability to asylum seekers and to remove the financial pressures from local authorities and taxpayers who are left to pick up the bill for these poor decisions.”
Former Standish councillor Gareth Fairhurst, who took a petition to Downing Street protesting against the Kilhey project, said: "This is great news. Using Kilhey Court was wrong for the economic migrants and wrong for the residents of Standish.”
Macdonald Hotels and Spas has been contacted for a comment.