Controversy over Company Linked to Penally Camp

According to The Guardian, the company that runs the Penally camp for asylum seekers in Pembrokeshire “stands to earn up to £1bn over ten years for its government work, delivering multimillion-pound benefits for its owner”.

As well as Penally, the paper reports, “Clearsprings Ready Homes, owned by Essex businessman Graham King, runs Napier barracks in Kent, where hundreds of asylum seekers have told of poor conditions and going without heating and drinking water after a fire.

“Government disclosures show that the company has two 10-year contracts worth up to £1bn to operate asylum accommodation in Wales and the south until 2029.”

There has been controversy not only about the living conditions in Penally but also about the Home Office’s decision to locate people who have suffered the traumas of war zones and torture in barracks-type accommodation, with attendant health and privacy issues.

A few of the asylum seekers have been moved to other accommodation, but many of them remain.

Pembrokeshire.Online has phoned and emailed Clearsprings and asked it to comment on the latest situation at Penally, and on the allegations in The Guardian. The company is referring to the Home Office any enquiries about the movement of the asylum seekers. When asked repeatedly about the Guardian report on 3 February it made no comment. But the following day it said in relation to the “up to £1bn over ten years” claim: “The value of the asylum contracts is volume-related and cannot be determined.”

The Home Office has said that it needs “to make sure that other property is available before people can be moved out of Penally… Our providers are working hard to find new properties that the Home Office can use, but this can be difficult because of Covid-19.” And it added: “The Home Office is in regular contact with CRH [Clearsprings Ready Homes] to make sure they are meeting standards.”

The Clearsprings Group is on record publicly as “an established provider of outsourced services to the public and private sector. The group offers a wide range of housing, support and IT services to customers that require innovative solutions offering the best value for money. Our family of brands and businesses prides itself on delivering a transparent, flexible and responsive offering that fully meets the needs of our customers.”

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley retired from The Oldie magazine to return to freelance journalism. He previously held executive staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for 20 years for newspapers including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian and the ‘i’ paper, plus a wide range of magazines. He continues to write about music, travel and health, and blogs at www.nigel-summerley.blogspot.com.

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