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Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public

Minutes:

5.1

Question asked by Stuart Crosthwaite

 

 

5.1.1

At the last meeting of the Scrutiny Committee I asked if Immigration Enforcement was one of the “partner agencies” with which the Private Housing Standards (PHS) team shared tenants’ data.  I was answered with “The project being carried out by the Controlling Migration Fund does not include checking tenants or occupants immigration status, so referrals will not be made to Immigration Enforcement as that information is not being gathered”

In a previous SCC bid to the Controlling Migration Fund (which has now been removed from the SCC website) it was stated that the PHS team had “made several referrals to UKBA” of undocumented migrants.  A “referral” would necessarily include data about tenants/occupants. Why and how did the PHS gather this information about tenants' immigration status when their role was supposed to be investigating housing standards?

 

 

5.2

Question 1 asked by John Grayson

 

 

Firstly, Councillor Wood’s reply to my question at the last Scrutiny Committee meeting - The Private Housing Standards Team have never handed any person over to UKBA or any other agency.”

“The Private Housing Standards Service is the regulatory and prosecuting authority as it is the Service’s legal duty to address poor housing conditions in the private rented sector.  We do not check the immigration status of tenants or occupants during a routine inspection, therefore we do not hand over anyone to Immigration Enforcement Services.”

 

 

 

Then statements contradicting this:

 

 

 

In an email sent to me on 2 September 2019, Councillor Wood said -

 

 

 

“We do not intend to be working with UKBA directly to remove people from the Country but we could as part of this intensive work uncover activity or people that do not have all the approvals they need to stay in the UK.  However, as a Council, if we find anyone acting illegally then we have a responsibility to inform statutory agencies.”

 

 

 

In the 2017 application for Controlling Migration Fund (CMF) money, it was stated that housing standards staff undertaking inspections in pursuit of rogue landlords between 2014 and 2017 had “made several referrals to the UKBA and had suspicions about other individuals who disappeared from premises immediately after initial visits had been attempted.”

 

 

 

The Council also admitted these “referrals” in a reply to an FOI request from Dr Rachel Humphris in July 2019, saying that “Sheffield City Council does hold information about referrals made to the UKBA” by the private housing standards team.

 

 

 

Also reports from a meeting with housing officers suggested that the Council staff had given information to ICE staff who arrested two Romanian citizens in January 2017 who were subsequently sent to Yarl’s Wood.

 

 

 

Clearly these statements are directly contradictory.

 

 

 

My question perhaps will allow you to clarify this apparent contradiction.

 

 

 

On the 2017 application form for CMF funding the Council said “yes” that they had “demonstrated assurance from the local Immigration Compliance and Enforcement team, if a proposal involves their resource, that they are able to commit the resources requested in the proposal”.

 

 

 

Can Councillor Wood confirm that in the process of inspection from 2014 to the present, council staff did pass on information to their statutory partner the UKBA, as well as the police, the DWP, the Modern Slavery Hotline, the Salvation Army and the Gangmasters agency?

 

 

 

Council staff perhaps did not physically “hand over” people to UKBA ICE staff.  They would not need to, ICE staff are warranted like police, if they were given information from the Council staff about tenants they can arrest and remove people from the UK.

 

 

 

The Council do not deny that inspections for selective licensing and to identify “rogue landlords” involve partners – the police, DWP and other “statutory” partners presumably the UKBA.  In email correspondence on 3 October, Councillor Wood confirmed that in the last 14 months two cases had been reported – one to the Police and one to the DWP.  Since July 2019 in CMF work in the East of the city, 6 referrals had been made to the police.

 

 

 

The Council has stated (wrongly) in answer to another question that the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 requires them proactively to give information to the UKBA about migrants they know about who may be undocumented, as Councillor Wood put it “if we find anyone acting illegally then we have a responsibility to inform statutory agencies.”

 

 

5.3

Question 2 asked by John Grayson

 

 

 

Councillor Wood in answer to a question about noncompliance with the Home Office, states that “Local authorities have a statutory duty under section 129 of the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 to supply information for the purpose of establishing where a person is when requested about someone who is suspected of committing certain immigration offences under the Immigration Act 1971”.

 

 

 

I am sure this is true but what was being asked was for the Council not to proactively, even when not receiving a request, supply information to the Home Office without the persons permission.  This is what 11 other Labour controlled authorities have decided to do and I am sure their legal departments have advised that they can do this.  So … will Sheffield City Council join them?

 

 

5.4

Question asked by Andy Shallice

 

 

 

All local authorities with Roma citizens should consider Selective Programme apart from the 12 month report re Page Hall.  No further report has been written regarding the impact of Selective Licensing in the Page Hall area.  Should this Committee discuss this within the next six months?

 

 

5.5

Councillor Paul Wood, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety, gave the same answer to the questions raised by Stuart Crosthwaite last month that the Council do not give information to the UKBA, the Council does not ask the immigration status of proposed Council housing tenants.  In answer to John Grayson’s questions, Councillor Wood said that to use the word “illegal” was perhaps the wrong word to use and that it would be better to say that someone carrying out a “criminal activity” might be reported to the statutory agencies.  Councillor Wood also stated that he could not find any record of six people being reported to the Police and if the names could be provided to him, he would carry out further investigations.

 

 

5.6

Councillor Wood said that he had been looking in depth at the protocols the City Council work to in relation to migration in the city and had found a lot of things in the protocols that were admirable, however there was nothing to deal with undocumented migration and this was something that he was hoping to add within the next month so that he can say to officers that this is what we will work to.  Funding received had been used to employ street wardens; community workers; carry out surveys; offer support to new arrivals by getting them into work, education and language courses and carry out enforcement against landlords who abuse the rights of tenants and do not provide suitable habitable accommodation.  Councillor Wood said that he had attended a meeting with other authorities relating to the Inclusive Cities Project which deals with all aspects of migration and considers that it would be beneficial for Sheffield City Council to become part of the Project.  Councillor Wood said that he had taken on board the questions raised by Andy Shallice with regard to the Roma migrants and said that there was no one from the Roma community employed by the City Council and acknowledged that the Council was not an inclusive employer in this regard.  He felt that there was a need for Teaching Assistants who speak the Roma language to be employed. 

 

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