THE bill for policing asylum seeker protests outside Llanelli’s Stradey Park Hotel is an estimated £300,000, a police and crime commissioner has said during a meeting in Aberaeron.
Dyfed-Powys police and crime commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said he would try to get the money reimbursed by the UK’s Home Office, which wanted to accommodate up to 240 asylum seekers at the hotel.
He said the £300,000 sum included additional costs such as overtime, but excluded the knock-on impact of redeploying officers from other roles elsewhere. He expected the foregone costs of this impact would be a further £300,000 or so.
Speaking at a Dyfed-Powys police and crime panel meeting, Mr Llywelyn gave the example of a sergeant based in Newtown, Powys, and a safeguarding officer with a CID role in Aberaeron, who had both policed the Stradey Park Hotel many miles away because they had public order training.
He said the behaviour of some protesters who objected to the Home Office’s plans was “very grotesque”. Some police officers, he said, were sworn at, spat at, and even followed home. “It was a pretty nasty time, if truth be told,” he said. A number of arrests were made over the course of several weeks, including when scores of protesters broke into the hotel’s grounds on 1 October.
Mr Llywelyn said the way the situation played out in Llanelli was, policing-wise, similar to that when asylum seekers were earmarked for a military training camp in Penally, Pembrokeshire, in 2020 and 2021.
The difference was that asylum seekers were actually housed at the camp, whereas the Home Office shelved its plans for the Stradey Park Hotel this month, meaning the venue has effectively remained empty for months.
Mr Llywelyn said he welcomed the Home Office’s U-turn and that, like most of the announcements about the hotel, it had come as “a bit of a shock”.
The Plaid Cymru commissioner said he had written several times to the Home Office expressing his concerns that the hotel was unsuitable for a large number of asylum seekers and that the approach had, in his view, “ridden roughshod” over the established “dispersal model”, whereby people fleeing conflict in Syria and Afghanistan had been settled in different locations in smaller numbers.
He said he understood that the Home Office had an issue with the cost of accommodating asylum seekers and had a backlog of asylum decisions to work through but that, in his opinion, “the fundamental flaw is in the way they go about it”.
He said he was due to raise the additional policing costs in a meeting with Home Secretary Suella Braverman on 8 November.
Panel member, Cllr Jonathan Grimes, said he and others had been told that the substantial use of police resources at the Stradey Park Hotel explained why only two police community support officers were present when fighting broke out at a large street fair in Pembroke this month.
“Fortunately nobody was seriously injured,” he said.
Cllr Grimes said organisers of the three-day Michaelmas Fair were advised, following enquiries, that extra policing could be provided but at a cost of £74.49p per officer per hour.
“We worked out it would be £4,500 – we were quited shocked,” he said.
Mr Llywelyn said other police resources could have been directed to the incident had it been more serious, but he said he would raise it with the relevant superintendent in Pembroke if Cllr Grimes provided him with more details. He added that the additional policing costs were linked to a national charging rate that forces used for policing football matches.