THE LEADER of Carmarthenshire Council is trying to claw back nearly £230,000 of costs which he said the authority incurred as a result of a Home Office plan to house asylum seekers at a hotel in Llanelli.
Councillor Darren Price said council officers spent more than 2,700 hours dealing with the controversial proposal for the privately-owned Stradey Park Hotel and Spa before the Home Office decided last month not to push ahead with it.
He has also called for more local government and Welsh Government input in future plans by the UK Government to accommodate asylum seekers.
Speaking at a meeting of full council, Cllr Price said he would be making a claim for costs of nearly £230,000, which included lost registrar income from cancelled marriages, as well as officer time.
The Plaid Cymru leader said officers had been pulled away from their primary roles to deal with the Home Office “fiasco” at a time of “significant budget strain”.
Cllr Price said he has received a letter from the UK Government, which had proposed accommodating up to 240 asylum seekers at the hotel, saying it was committed to working with partners on a “lessons learned exercise”.
He said: “As (elected) members are aware I have consistently stated that local government and the Welsh Government should have a central role in developing an all-Wales approach to emergency asylum accommodation, as opposed to leaving it to a UK Government which very often has no idea of the local context – as we have seen in the case of the Stradey Park hotel.”
Cllr Price said all leaders of Welsh councils have agreed with this approach and that he understood that the Welsh Government has “now made that offer” to the UK Government.
Meanwhile, the owners of the Stradey Park Hotel have said they want to reopen it to the public and rebuild trust with the community – and Cllr Price said it was important that the building didn’t remain empty for long.
“Having spoken to a number of people in Llanelli over recent weeks it is clear that local people want to see the site either revert to its former use as a hotel, or developed into another asset which can bring benefit to the town, as quickly as possible,” he said.
Two weeks ago Dyfed-Powys police and crime commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said he would try to reclaim about £300,000 of additional costs he said the force had incurred policing the hotel site.
Protests, including a large number of people gaining access into the hotel grounds, led to several arrests.