‘It can’t be a choice between refugee children in boats and people from MK’

Council leader Pete Marland
Council leader Pete Marland

Taking in Syrian refugees will not hinder plans to tackle MK’s homeless crisis - if the government delivers on funding promises, it has been claimed.

Council leader Pete Marland believes the Milton Keynes community will “rise to the challenge” of supporting refugees, as well as the 140 homeless families currently staying in city B&Bs.

He said: “I believe MK should stand ready to act on this desperate humanitarian crisis.

“We can’t solve the crisis, but it shouldn’t be turned into a choice between refugee children in boats and people from MK.

“If we get the right resources and we appeal to people in MK to help, I’m sure we can do both.”

As the Prime Minister pledged to resettle up to 20,000 refugees in Britain by 2020, Chancellor George Osborne said he would give some of the UK’s £12billion-a-year foreign aid budget to house the refugees.

Now Mr Marland is calling on the government to deliver on that promise - and provide reasonable resources to house the refugees sent to Milton Keynes.

It comes less than a week after the Labour group leader admitted the city was facing a “homelessness crisis” with up to 400 people staying in budget hotels, hostels and B&Bs as far afield as Stansted, Reading and Cambridge.

Despite this issue, Mr Marland says he is willing for MK to take in a “fair share” of refugees. He has asked officers to research how then numbers will impact on the city.

He said: “The issues around MK taking in refugees are far deeper than just housing. Many of the refugees will be children who have been separated from their parents and require special help, or women who have been subject to abuse needing lots of support.

“All this puts strain on services that are already stretched.

“We must be given extra help by the government to be able to meet the needs of people both at home and escaping terrible situations abroad.

“MK is a place many thousands of people have come to in the past looking for a better life. I believe that as a city we should be prepared to take our fair share of people who need safety and security at a time of need.”

If anyone can offer accommodation or room to a refugee or to help a homeless family from MK they can call MK Council Housing Options Team on 01908 253481 or 01908 252937 and select option 2.