Fight goes on to secure detention centre money

REVENUE raised through the use of part of the Hope Street police station as a detention centre for illegal immigrants must come back into Larne to boost the local PSNI budget, according to Larne District Policing Partnership.

Larne House opened in July this year and uses the former police custody suite as accommodation for a maximum of 21 illegal immigrants for up to seven days in order to facilitate their removal from the UK.

The UK Border Agency centre is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and holds foreign nationals caught working illegally, outstaying their visa as well as failed asylum seekers being removed from the UK.

Before the centre even opened it had been hoped that revenue generated by the lease of a portion of the station by the Policing Board to the UK Border Agency would be ploughed back into policing in Larne.

It is uncertain how much is paid to the board, but with annual operating costs for Larne House reported to be around £1,479m before VAT - covering the operating contract, lease of the building, rates, security and utilities - any money raised through rental could make a real difference to the local policing budget.

Larne District Policing Partnership has been at the forefront at pushing for the majority, if not all of the money raised through the lease to be brought back to Larne.

However, four months after the first detainees arrived in town, members have been informed that the matter still hasn’t been resolved.

Larne PSNI sector commander, Inspector Noel Rogan, informed the DPP at its most recent public meeting that the issue was currently with H District’s business manager and it is his remit to decide where the money is going”.

“I’d welcome support from the DPP as we’d like to see it coming to Larne as the detention centre is on our patch,” he said.

DPP vice-chair, Patricia McNeill pointed out that it was the DPP that had the initiative to find out about the money and to bring it to the attention of the Policing Board and PSNI chiefs.

“It is not satisfactory to hear again we do not know where it is going. We had the initiative to make sure the money was not lost.

“Larne is a very important part of H District and the only reason it is is in H District is because we asked for it. It deserves to be in Larne,” she said.

The partnership agreed with a proposal by Chairman Winston Fulton to write to the H District commander, Chief Superintendent Chris Noble, to try to secure the money for Larne.