Cancelled immigration centre ‘wasted £29m’

MPs have attacked the Home Office for wasting £29 million planning a temporary accommodation centre for asylum seekers it never bothered building.

The Commons’ public accounts committee (PAC) concludes the government did not ensure plans to build the centre at Bicester, in Oxfordshire, were scrutinised rigorously.

As a result the £29.1 million spent on planning and design were wasted because falling numbers of asylum applicants, a rise in the projected net cost and general development in asylum application processing.

“The Home Office project to build on a site at Bicester in Oxfordshire an accommodation centre for asylum seekers embodied lack of foresight, poor business planning and a startling absence of common sense,” PAC chairman Edward Leigh said.

The report found the government did not take into account the high levels of opposition from the local community, despite taking the decision to build in a rural environment, where Mr Leigh says, it was “always going to provoke opposition”.

It also attacks the Home Office failing to build effective contacts with local interest groups and MPs.

A Home Office spokesperson said the government believed accommodation centres were “the right decision. at the time”.

“As circumstances changed and the project was delayed we reviewed that decision,” he said.

“Experience with this project has taught us some important lessons and this. has led to an overall positive impact for the public.”

The government is now undergoing a feasibility study which would see a secure immigration removal centre built on the existing site at Bicester, a move the spokesperson added means the Home Office “has laid the groundwork for further expansion of its detention estate”.

Local residents are still waiting for news about future plans for Bicester, today’s PAC report says.

Mr Leigh added: “The local community deserves a quick announcement of the Home Office’s intentions.”