Council to foot five figure evacuee bill

PUBLISHED: 06:38 27 July 2006 | UPDATED: 09:45 31 May 2010

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BRITISH nationals who flew in to Stansted Airport from Lebanon at the weekend may have to be housed by Uttlesford District Council if they cannot find other accommodation. There are currently 61 evacuees staying at the University of Essex s campus in Colc

BRITISH nationals who flew in to Stansted Airport from Lebanon at the weekend may have to be housed by Uttlesford District Council if they cannot find other accommodation.

There are currently 61 evacuees staying at the University of Essex's campus in Colchester after being transferred from the Hilton Hotel at the airport on Tuesday afternoon, a stay which has so far seen the council run up a bill well into five figures.

And the council's chief executive, Alasdair Bovaird, said it would be its responsibility to house them if they chose to settle permanently in the area.

He said: "All of the people who have arrived are British nationals, or relatives of British nationals, and are therefore entitled to the help of the British authorities.

"We have a legal obligation to help, as we are so close to the airport.

"It is too early to say if any of the 61 people, which are made up of 27 families, will require housing in Uttlesford, but if they did, we would assess their needs and prioritise them accordingly.

Mr Bovaird is confident that the council will be reimbursed fully by the government for assisting the 600 evacuees to find their feet when they arrived from Akrotiri Airport in Cyprus.

Mr Bovaird said that the rooms cost £85 per night, not including breakfast and dinner, and that the council also paid for evacuees to get buses and taxis to Audley End station.

"We have used funds from our contingency reserves to pay for the 40 rooms we booked at the Hilton, but I am certain it will have no detrimental impact on existing or future projects," he said.

"I am confident that within a couple of months, the Government will reimburse our costs so that council tax payers don't have to foot the bill and that local services are not affected.

"About 50 of our staff have been involved in the process, doing everything from helping people to make phone calls and ensuring they receive medical attention to helping them to continue their journey.

"Only about 130 of the 600 evacuees needed our assistance, and we have already managed to help over half of those set off for other parts of the country."

Another plane containing 180 evacuees was due to land at Stansted yesterday (Wednesday), but Mr Bovaird said he expected only a few of them to require accommodation at the hotel.

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