Labour Councillors are deeply disappointed that at last night’s Extraordinary Council meeting, the Green administration voted in an unholy alliance with the Conservatives to water-down Labour’s proposals for action on the 76 missing refugee children.

The Extraordinary Council meeting was called by Labour in order to discuss next steps in safeguarding the children who have gone missing and face exploitation from a hotel run by the Home Office in Hove. After the Green administration put this meeting off for weeks, when the day finally came, their councillors lined up to complain about Labour raising this issue so close to the Local Elections.

Having raised the alarm in parliament and the council for 18 months, Labour ramped up the pressure immediately when Sussex Police revealed the equivalent of 5 classrooms of children had gone missing. Labour’s proposals would have seen the council consult expert legal advice in order to challenge the Home Office, get the hotel shut down, and put children into care placements without delay. Labour also called on the council to refer itself to a safeguarding panel so that lessons from this catastrophe could be learned.

Instead, Green and Conservative Councillors clubbed together to water down Labour’s proposals, choosing the route of cheap political posturing over effective action. Labour are deeply disappointed that finally having this meeting take place, the attitude of the Green administration was defensiveness, accusing Labour of electioneering, and working with the Tories to dilute any real action in place of another useless letter to government that will doubtless be ignored by the Home Office. The council Conservatives, normally firmly opposed to such letters being sent, seem to have cynically decided this would put much less pressure on their own party’s government than a court challenge, so supported the dilution.

Labour’s co-leader of the opposition, Cllr John Allcock, said:

“Our message to the Green administration was simple – get off the defensive, stop playing politics with the lives of vulnerable children, don’t wash your hands of responsibility, come clean about your inaction and work together with us on fixing this horrific mess.

“Our message to the Conservative Group was you have a lot to answer for – it’s your Government that has created this disastrous hostile environment policy which has seen those fleeing the most unthinkable conflicts and persecution threatened with flights to Rwanda or exploitation in hotels. Where is your outrage? Where is your action? What steps have you personally taken to lobby your Government colleagues on behalf of your residents in this so-called City of Sanctuary, and on behalf of the missing children you are joint corporate parents for? Your silence is deafening, and unforgivable.

“I cannot stress just how disappointed I am that the Greens and Tories chose to play politics and block meaningful action to safeguard vulnerable children. This meeting was a chance for us to put party politics aside and come together behind an acti/on plan that would ensure these children were looked after safely and learn lessons from this safeguarding disaster. Instead, they chose grandstanding for the local elections, and a meaningless letter to government over real action. Those children deserve better, and I would forgive anyone who has lost faith in local politics after last night’s performances.”

Labour Councillor Bella Sankey who proposed Labour’s motion to Council, said:

“It’s deeply frustrating that our practical and robust plan to force the Government to close this unregistered children’s home was blocked by Green & Conservative councillors last night.

“Both of these political parties have contributed to a situation where unaccompanied children in our City have been preyed on by serious organised crime.

“I don’t understand why any councillor wouldn’t want to do everything necessary to bring this nightmare to an end.”

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