Asylum accommodation at RAF Wethersfield costing ten times more than originally planned says report

The former RAF base at Wethersfield

Accommodation for Asylum seekers at a former Essex base is costing 10 times more than originally planned. according to a report by Whitehall's spending watchdog.

And the new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) also indicated that the site could house hundreds fewer migrants than planned.

The NAO said the Home Office expects to spend £1.2 billion on housing asylum seekers in large accommodation sites and latest estimates suggest they will cost £46 million more than using hotels.

The report, published today, comes in the wake of Witham MP, the ex-home secretary Dame Priti Patel telling the Commons last week that the Government's asylum accommodation system is in need of reform and there are "serious questions" to be asked of her former department.

Priti Patel speaking at the Police Superintendents' Association Conference. Credit: PA

According to the findings, the Home Office originally estimated set-up costs at RAF Wethersfield would be £5 million, but they increased to £49 million.

So far only Wethersfield - which has a capacity to house 1,700 - and the Bibby Stockholm, with space for around 500 men, are housing asylum seekers.

But both sites were housing just under half the number of migrants the Home Office expected would be the case at the end of January, with 576 at Wethersfield and 321 on the Bibby barge at that point.

According to the report, the Home Office is "now considering reducing the maximum number of people it accommodates" at Wethersfield but has not confirmedthe number.

The NAO report states that: "The Home Office originally assessed that large sites would be around £94 million cheaper than hotels. Its latest estimates suggest they will cost £46 million more than using hotels, although the Home Office believes they will provide more appropriate and sustainable accommodation," the watchdog added.

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