Sheffield Council criticised for Controlling Migration decision

Several people have spoken out against Sheffield Council’s decision to accept money from the government which involves sharing data on undocumented migrants.

Monday, 23rd September 2019, 11:52 am
Updated Saturday, 28th September 2019, 24:59 am
Sheffield Town Hall.

Earlier this year the council accepted two grants totalling £577,680 from the government’s Controlling Migration Fund, to help fund additional staff to “focus on intelligence-led work where poor housing conditions are believed to be linked to recent migration.”

South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group said this, and other decisions – such as pushing the Right to Rent policy (which was deemed unlawful in High Court earlier this year) in their bid for the money – was at odds with Sheffield’s status as a City of Sanctuary.

Councils in 11 different areas have pledged not to share immigration data with the Home Office for fears it will lead to deportation and campaigners are asking Sheffield Council to do the same.

Councillor Francyne Johnson was one of a number of people who asked the council’s safer and stronger communities scrutiny committee about the issue in a meeting.

She asked what members’ opinions were on positive references made about the Controlling Migration Fund bid and said the decision to accept the money should have been open to public scrutiny.

She said: “Does the scrutiny chair agree that the Controlling Migration Fund decision should have been discussed by this scrutiny panel in its own right as a separate agenda item, particularly taking into account this decision could reasonably be said to be a key decision since it covers more than one board, is worth a significant amount of money and could be said to conflict with existing council policy – that of Sheffield being a City of Sanctuary.”

In response, Coun Ben Curran, chair of the committee, said he and others challenged officers who did not allow the decision to be called in but was unsuccessful.

He said: “I propose that we deal with this issue as an item on our next meeting in October alongside cohesion Sheffield because I think it’s a really substantive issue.

“For me the City of Sanctuary is one of the most key policies that this council has adopted that says it doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, what you’ve experienced, what struggles you’ve been facing – you can come here, we’ll look after you, we’ll protect you and keep you safe. For me that’s absolutely something I want to see upheld.”

Coun Paul Wood, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety, added: “We as a council will not agree to share information on people unless there is a major criminal interest.”