Pressure on city leaders in Stephenson Quarter illegal workers probe

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes will hold urgent talks about the Stephenson Quarter incident

Coun Nick Forbes, leader Newcastle City Council
Coun Nick Forbes, leader Newcastle City Council

Pressure is mounting on city leaders to explain how nine illegal immigrants were employed on the site of a £200m flagship development.

Coun Nick Forbes has said he will hold “urgent meetings” with developers after a Home Office immigration team executed a warrant at the Stephenson Quarter development.

Over the past six years planners had claimed the site would boost the Tyneside economy and create as many as 2,200 jobs for local people.

But Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah said she was “disappointed and angry to learn that this flagship development, supported by public money, has been exploiting illegal, unprotected workers”.

Meanwhile, Anita Lower, leader of the Lib Dems in Newcastle, accused the council of failing to carry out their “checks and balances” and called for transparency.

VIP site visit to Stephenson Quarter, from left,Ian Jubb, David Clouston, Michelle Percy, Cllr Nick Forbes and Peter Brennan
VIP site visit to Stephenson Quarter, from left,Ian Jubb, David Clouston, Michelle Percy, Cllr Nick Forbes and Peter Brennan
 

She said: “This was a flagship development taken on the by the Labour party with the investment of a lot of council money.

“I think it’s astonishing that a project that’s suppose to bring in local jobs and economic benefits has illegal immigrants working on site. What sorts of checks and balances are they carrying out? The council should be more alert of who is employed on such an important site.”

It emerged yesterday that nine bogus workers from India were arrested at the city centre development during a raid last week.

Officers visited the Stephenson Quarter site, behind Newcastle Central Station, just months after the first phase of a massive transformation got underway, which will include new commercial, hotel, residential and retail facilities. It will see the creation of a 251-bed, four-star Crowne Plaza Hotel and conference centre, as well as a multi-storey car park and office space.

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah said: “I visited the Stephenson Quarter development and met local apprentices eager to learn new skills.

“So I am especially disappointed and angry to learn that this flagship development, supported by public money, has been exploiting illegal, unprotected workers. I expect they will explain what happened and how, and the steps they will take to make sure it does not happen again.”

When asked for comment Coun Forbes repeated his statement that he would be holding “urgent talks” with developers. He said: “If these men are employed illegally then it is simply unacceptable on a project that is all about creating jobs and training local people.”

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