Backlash over Newtown refugee city of sanctuary talks


Jonny Drury

A resident outraged that councillors are discussing whether  Newtown should become a city of sanctuary for refugees has called for anyone proposing this  to resign.

Last week’s Newtown Town Council meeting heard Cllr Rina Clarke, the representative on the Newtown Refugee Support Group, raise the idea, which has been adopted elsewhere in the UK.

The council agreed for Cllr Clarke to gather more information on the idea.

However the idea of a city of sanctuary has been met with fierce backlash from some quarters.

In a letter to the County Times, Linda Bennett, of Tregynon, said  councillors who backed the proposal are ‘out of touch with reality’ and ‘should be ousted’.

She said: “I am totally outraged by this news. If it is true, these town councillors have made this totally inappropriate proposal.

“Park Street GP Practice, Newtown, only has four full time GPs and a part time GP who works two days.

“This practice is struggling to cope because they have been unable to recruit more GPs to take the places of those who have retired from this practice. 

“These town councillors who have formed this committee to take forward the proposal to find out about making Newtown ‘a City of Sanctuary’ for refugees, are out of touch with the reality of the situation.

“I want them to resign. We cannot have town councillors making such ridiculous proposals like this. They need ousting.

“The Newtown Refugee Support Group needs naming and shaming also. 

“We need to look after our ‘own’ people who are already struggling to gain access to primary and secondary health care here. We do not need any more people here in this community that would need a lot of health and social care.”

This view was backed up by County Cllr Bob Mills, who said he believes a referendum should be held.

He said: “I was stopped by residents on the streets of Newtown, and asked ‘what does the Newtown Council think it’s up to proposing this, who gave them consent to take this forward.  

“This project should go out to consultation and everyone in Newtown should have the chance to vote on the issue through.

“A local referendum, with a straight question on the paper, ‘Should Newtown become a city of sanctuary for Refugees’.”

A full version of these  letters will be published in next week’s County Times.

Cllr Mills added he had no objection to taking in a few refugees, but said services are already suffering due to a lack of funding.

“We must also remember that Wales voted to leave the EU and one of the main reasons was because of inward migration.

“I have no objection to taking in a few refugees now and again, providing local people who have nowhere to live are given first priority of housing.

“There are some very important questions that need to be asked, one being who is going to pay for it all, because indirectly it will all come, from the tax payer, be it council tax, personal tax, Business Rates, raising car insurance, or other, many people are struggling to make ends meet now, and don’t need any added on costs.

“We must also remember that our services are also struggling to survive due to lack of funding.”

In response, a town council spokesperson has said that no town council resources have been used and residents with concerns can contact their local councillor.

A spokesperson said: “The relocation programme is a UK Government obligation being administered in Powys by the county council.

“The town council and other voluntary bodies were invited by the county council to be part of a support group to help families settle.

“The work of the support group, which is administered by Powys Organisation of Voluntary Organisations, has not used any resource of the town council (staff or money).

“So far, the public support for the voluntary support group has been considerable, so if members of the public want to inquire further, they may wish to contact their local county councillor.”

The council also added they have “merely asked Cllr Clarke to pursue lines of inquiry to seek more information” on the City of Sanctuary idea.

See full story in the County Times

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