LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 08: A general view of The Home Office on July 8, 2014 in London, England. Later today senior civil servant Mark Sedwell will face questions from the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee over the loss of files by the Home Office relating to child abuse allegations from the 1980s. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
PRIME MINISTER Rishi Sunak on Tuesday (15) said that he was ‘frustrated’ over reports of a criminal winning funding to house migrants in Milton Keynes.
The BBC on Monday (14) reported that the owner of Harben House Hotel in Newport Pagnell was convicted of offences linked to the operation of houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs).
The hotel is due to receive 270 asylum seekers, to be accommodated in about 150 rooms.
The landlord, Siddharth Mahajan, 42, from Ilford in east London, was jailed for 16 months in 2019 for perverting the course of justice and using copies of forged documents, the report said.
When asked about the report during his visit to Milton Keynes on Tuesday, Sunak was unable to provide a definitive answer, according to reports.
“I can completely understand people’s frustrations. People are rightly frustrated by it. I am frustrated by it,” he is reported to have said.
Milton Keynes council leader Pete Marland, from Labour Party, characterised the BBC‘s discoveries as ‘shocking’
He said that the responsibility of the Home Office is to ensure law and order, rather than allocating significant funds to individuals with criminal backgrounds.
Marland appealed to the Home Office to withdraw the hotel funding and investigate the factors that led to this situation.
The Barking and Dagenham council reported that Mahajan was under investigation for unlawfully converting three family homes in Barking, in east London, into HMOs without proper planning authorisation.
He falsely asserted that these properties had been functioning as HMOs for over a decade, making them exempt from enforcement actions. However, the evidence he provided to support this claim was proven to be forged.
The ownership of the property belongs to Bluebell Tame Ltd, a company in which Mahajan became a director on July 21. Subsequently, his Tulip Real Estates business took control of that company.
Jane Carr, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats on the council, told the BBC, “Residents deserve better, they need openness and transparency from the Home Office and we need our MP to provide re-assurances that those running contracts are responsible for their business practices and are fit for purpose.”
Tory MP for Milton Keynes North, Ben Everitt, said that he had personally communicated with the Home Secretary about the issue.
He requested the temporary suspension of the site’s utilisation and a thorough inquiry once the ongoing group of asylum seekers is dealt with.
“We need to find out the facts as the people of Newport Pagnell deserve much better than this,” he added.
The Home Office said, “There are currently more than 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £6m a day.
“We engage with local authorities as early as possible whenever sites are used for asylum accommodation and work to ensure arrangements are safe for hotel residents and local people.”
A by-election is scheduled for September 21 in the Newport Pagnell South ward of the city council.