Wiltshire’s liberal democrats have accused the council of “sitting” on approximately £10 million destined for Ukrainian refugees.

The council’s leadership is being pressed to spend more of the £14 million it received from the government’s Home for Ukraine fund.

However, Wiltshire Council denies the money is being used incorrectly and argues that its approach provides long-term security.

Councillor Ian Thorn, leader of the council’s Lib Dem group, said: “It is highly disappointing to find that the Council is sitting on this money instead of spending it as intended on services to help Ukrainians living in Wiltshire.

“There are many ways in which the cash could be used to help Ukrainian families rebuild their lives and fully integrate into communities, which is the purpose of the money as stated by government.”

Councillor David Vigar said: “Wiltshire has a dedicated team looking after refugees and they have done a very good job with the limited money that has been released by the council’s leadership.”

He added: “Caseworkers are in place, though I estimate only around one per every 100 Ukrainians, as well as two officers helping with housing and one with employment.

“But the council is holding the majority of the money back in line with a plan it announced 18 months ago to buy homes through its Stone Circle Housing Company ‘for Ukraine nationals now and for wider use into the future.’”

Cllr Vigar suggested that the money should be used on activities such as helping Ukrainian refugees find jobs, as done by some other local authorities.

He concluded: “We want to see more social housing to help local families who need it, but we do not believe it should be purchased with funds earmarked to support people fleeing a war zone.”

When questioned on the issue in the full council meeting on Tuesday, May 21, the leader of Wiltshire Council, Richard Clewer, said: “There is support, particularly around English as a second language, that has been the most significant barrier that I’m aware of for the more highly skilled Ukrainians.”

According to Wiltshire Council, it has already bought 30 properties through the government local authority housing funding, 24 of which are for Ukrainians.

It anticipates that by the end of 2024/25, it will have 30 Local Authority Housing Fund (LAHF) and 25 Housing Revenue Account (HRA) homes.

The council reports that it is using the funds to permanently house Ukrainian refugees whilst they are in the UK, meaning those houses will be available for other Wiltshire residents in need once Ukrainian families move on.