Councillor A Hopgood, Leader of the Council thanked everyone in the Chamber for observing the minutes’ silence in honour of those affected by events in Ukraine, Turkey and Syria and said that everyone would be aware that the Council had been flying the Ukrainian flag at the front of County Hall for the past year as a show of support for the country and its people. She added that support went much further than the simple flying of a flag. People from across the County had been doing whatever they could to help those in need as a result of the conflict, from donating spare cash to sending lorry-loads of supplies to the Ukrainian border.
Many County Durham residents had also opened up their homes to Ukrainian citizens through the national Homes for Ukraine scheme, which saw ‘host’ households in the UK offering accommodation to those fleeing the conflict.
Since the outbreak of war, 513 people had arrived in County Durham and been offered a home within communities. Almost 100 people had been able to move on to independent accommodation in the County, while 92 had been provided with homes through Durham Key Options.
The council had provided support by carrying out checks on hosts and their premises before guests arrived, conducting home visits and administering funding. While it was terribly sad that people from Ukraine were having to leave their country, the Leader was not surprised by the show of support from County Durham residents.
County Durham was an incredibly welcoming community, as had been shown through the support for people fleeing adversity and oppression in other parts of the world.
In recent years, County Durham had opened its’ doors to those seeking refuge and asylum from Syria, Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan, all with the support of residents and a wide range of partner organisations.
The Leader invited everyone in the chamber will join her in expressing thanks to all those within communities who stepped up to offer their help.
While the Leader was sure all would like to see a day when such support was no longer required, County Durham would always extend a hand of friendship when it is needed.
In response to a question from Councillor Marshall about levelling up consultant fees, the Chair asked him to put this in writing to the Leader as was not part of her report.
Councillor C Marshall referred to the Government’s Ukrainian resettlement scheme and the thousands at risk of homelessness due to issues around funding and financial support. Councillor Marshall asked the Leader of the Council what steps the Council were taking in holding the government to account on this failed scheme to support Ukraine refugees which had not been thought through to a proper conclusion.
Councillor Marshall also asked what the council was doing to support families, and the costs involved, in ensuring that those families were not displaced from a safe and secure home once again.
The Leader replied that she would respond in writing to Councillor Marshall following the meeting.