Hertfordshire has “zero capacity” to support resettled refugees in 2025, councils will tell the Home Office.

Senior policymakers at Three Rivers District Council have agreed they cannot put migrants arriving through safe and legal routes up in just over a year but would consider participating in Whitehall schemes with extra cash.

A district report, published for a meeting which took place on Monday, December 4, revealed Hertfordshire councils’ housing chiefs have met and “agreed in consensus that there is zero capacity at a countywide level to support individuals arriving through safe and legal migration routes in 2025”.

Refugees have been put up at Needham House in Little Wymondley this year, which saw a weddings and bookings cancelled. 

North Herts Council leader Elizabeth Dennis told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The situation in North Herts is that we desperately want to help people whom we have a moral and humanitarian duty to.

“We have a very strong and proud record of protecting people who need our help – from places like Ukraine and Afghanistan.

“The situation we face with this is that we are struggling to play the part we want to – we are finding the support from central government is being cut.

“Our spending power has reduced by 73 per cent since 2013 – over the last 10 years – in North Hertfordshire.”

The Labour councillor in Hitchin Walsworth ward, who is also the District Councils Network’s finance spokesperson, added: “The harsh reality is that we have got more than 3,500 people on our housing register, with pressures and the cost-of-living crisis which are not going to go away any time soon.”

A Hertfordshire County Council spokesperson confirmed a discussion among the county’s heads of housing had taken place.

They said: “A draft response is currently with all Hertfordshire’s local authorities for consideration and conversations are ongoing.”

The Home Office would like to set a cap on the number of people who can come into the UK, based on the nation’s capacity to accommodate and support people.

Speaking at the meeting, the Three Rivers deputy leader Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst said: “Our hearts are with accommodating people in need and always have been, and we have done so in terms of Afghan and Ukrainian households.

“We have equally got to register the practicalities and the finances of the council.”

The Liberal Democrat councillor, who represents Leavesden ward, added: “I would hope that the government, whoever that may be in the future, will rethink this and provide sufficient support to local authorities to carry out this function.”

Policy and Resources Committee members agreed to tell the Home Office their authority has no capacity, but “that if additional was to be provided to the council”, Three Rivers District Council could participate in settlement schemes.

According to the report, the existing Home Office Asylum Dispersal Scheme has put pressure on the rental market.

Dispersal accommodation is provided for asylum seekers who need longer-term stays while their claim is being processed.

It is managed by housing providers on behalf of the Westminster government.

Officers added the Homes for Ukraine Rent Deposit Scheme, where people fleeing conflict in Ukraine can receive help with their initial tenancy deposit, has added pressure to the private rented sector.

“Significant pressure on council-owned temporary accommodation is already expected, due to a predicted increase in homelessness applications as a result of the cost-of-living crisis,” the report notes.

“Even with efficient management of the budget for temporary accommodation provided to Housing Services and the government-provided Homelessness Prevention Grant, increased use of nightly let accommodation may lead to significant budgetary pressure.”

Government recognises ‘immense strain’ on housing supply

Parliament has agreed the Home Office must set a cap on the number of people who enter the UK annually using “safe and legal routes” – part of the Illegal Migration Act passed in July this year.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick launched a consultation for local authorities in October “with a view to the UK taking only as many refugees as local communities can support”.

Mr Jenrick, Conservative MP for Newark, said: “The unacceptable number of people making illegal, dangerous and wholly unnecessary small boat crossings is placing an immense strain on housing and services across the UK.

“As part of the Illegal Migration Act to stop the boats, we will bring in a cap on our safe and legal routes informed by the capacity of local authorities.

“This will ensure that we do not take more refugees than our public services and communities can cope with and that the refugees we do decide to take can be properly supported and integrated.”

The Home Office has “confirmed that the funding packages attached to these safe and legal routes in 2025 will not change”, Three Rivers District Council officers wrote.