PLANS to house Syrian refugees in Worcestershire have moved a step closer after council bosses vowed to play their part in the relocation scheme.
The dramatic U-turn comes just three months after Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet refused to back the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (SVPR) scheme as the Tory leadership said it ‘feared the financial implication’.
But at a council meeting today (Thursday), members unanimously agreed to work with partner agencies in accommodating a realistic number of refugees.
Coun Tom Wells, Liberal Democrat member for Powick, helped bring the motion forward and called the issue ‘the most serious humanitarian crisis since World War Two’.
“Whether you are in Kidderminster, Worcester or in Malvern the message is the same,” he said. “However challenging and difficult this may be in the long run, we should be prepared now to play our relatively small but important part.
“We have spent a lot of time in the last six months branding Worcestershire as ‘World Class Worcestershire’ and I am delighted by that.
“But with that claim comes genuine responsibilities and one of those responsibilities is to act in a proportionate manner in playing our part in this humanitarian crisis.”
Previous concerns came after receiving ‘no guarantees’ from the Government about getting funding beyond the first year as it could costs council taxpayers between £100,000 and £150,000 a year to support 12 Syrian families.
However, the latest decision means the county council will now push the Government for funding for the scheme to continue beyond the first year.
Coun Joe Baker, Labour member for Arrow Valley East, added the previous vote to reject the idea was ‘a disgrace’ and he would happily offer his home to those in need.
“This is not a political agenda, this is a moral and humane agenda,” he said.
“When did we lose our humanity when we rejected this last motion as a county council?
“Putting things on hold and waiting for a shameless Government to make a decision too late was the wrong thing to do. We have a responsibility to act as human beings.”
Coun Paul Denham, Labour member for Rainbow ward in Worcester, added: “These people are not coming here to scrounge off our benefits they simply want to escape from their war-torn areas.
“I don’t want to be living in a part of this country which is showing a lack of humanity, I want us to play our thoughtful part here.”
Coun Adrian Hardman, leader of the council, said the council was prepared to ‘put its shoulder to the wheel’ and play its part.