For more and more Conservative MPs, the Home Office commandeering local hotels to house those seeking asylum is a visible sign of the system not working.
The use of these hotels has ballooned in recent years, as small boat crossings in the Channel have surged since 2018, and asylum decisions slowed during the COVID pandemic.
The Home Office says it is spending £8.2m a day on hotels currently. In 2022/23 the Budget was £3.6bn, around double what it was in 2021/22. There are understood to be around 400 hotels in use.
Robert Jenrick, announcing that 50 hotels would now be vacated by January, put this down to a fall in small boat crossings this year, of 30%.
Sky News understands that after ceasing to use these hotels by the end of January, ministers hope to stop using another 50 by April – but they privately admit that depends on many factors working in their favour.
Mr Jenrick said: “Those hotels should be assets for their local communities, serving businesses and tourists and hosting the life events that we treasure, such as weddings and birthdays, rather than housing illegal migrants at an unsustainable cost to the taxpayer.”
But as Labour pointed out, even closing 50 – or 100 – leaves the numbers of hotels in use higher than at the start of last year.
Rishi Sunak promised to end the use of hotels for asylum seekers earlier this year, but the backlog of cases waiting for a decision, currently 176,000 – has meant progress has been slow.
Those living in these hotels are given alternative accommodation on a no-choice basis. At the Westone Manor Hotel in Northampton, where Sky News visited today, families with children had recently left, with prams and toys piled up in the forecourt.
Danielle Stone, a local councillor supporting the families, claimed some had been given just hours to leave – and had been put up in alternative hotels across the country.
She said the families had put down roots there, with children at school. One resident, who was pregnant, was anxious about missing antenatal appointments.
The Home Office said they had been given the required notice of five days. It’s understood some of the asylum seekers have been moved to other hotels up to 25 miles away.
The government is not only struggling with the backlog – but with finding other suitable “dispersal” accommodation in local authority areas.
The Home Office has not released details of which hotels will be closed, but some MPs have revealed the locations, and hope to show local residents that progress is being made.
Northampton North, where the Westone manor hotel is located, is a Conservative constituency with a majority of just 5,507.
Another area where a hotel is being closed is Ipswich, where a four-star Novotel is being vacated. Tory MP Tom Hunt, whose majority there is 5,579, told Sky News that immigration was “a key issue for my constituents”.
Greg Smith, MP for Buckingham, who was notified that a Best Western hotel in his constituency was closing, said plans to close it in September had not materialised, and that he was now being told it would happen in November.
The government is trying to move some asylum seekers – mainly adult men – into alternative accommodation, with some finally boarding the controversial Bibby Stockholm barge, which had to be vacated after a legionella outbreak.
Some are being housed at the disused RAF Weathersfield in Essex, but plans to house up to 2,000 at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire are being held up by local challenges.
Ministers say they believe that a final ruling later this year on the legality of the Rwanda scheme, which they hope will act as a deterrent to crossings, will be a crucial test of their success.
Immigration remains a key issue, particularly for Conservative voters – although well behind the economy and the health service.
MPs in 50 communities – not all of them Tories – can say the use of hotels is being tackled. But after last week’s by-election defeats, there are many more MPs looking for swifter progress.