Bibby Stockholm
The cost of Sunak's plan to house asylum seekers in a barge and across RAF sites has spiralled POOL via AFP/Andrew Matthews

Rishi Sunak's contentious proposal for asylum seekers to be housed across RAF sites and in a barge will cost substantially more than the current hotel system, the spending watchdog says.

A damning new report from the National Audit Office priced the new facilities £46 million higher than the existing arrangement- where migrants reside in hotels until their claims are processed.

These figures dispute initial estimates by the Sunak government that the new facilities would save taxpayers £94 million in spending.

This is despite the four sites: the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, the two former RAF bases and former student accommodation in Huddersfield, accommodating fewer people than initially projected.

The Home Office expects to spend £230 million on building the facilities by the end of March 2024.

The cost of setting up the two former RAF bases has spiralled from initial figures pricing the facilities to cost £5 million each to £49 million for Wethersfield and £27 million for Scampton.

Two sites, Wethersfield and Bibby Stockholm, have housed people from the end of January, with under half the number of people the Home Office had anticipated by that deadline.

Three separate examinations of the Home Office's work on asylum accommodation from November 2022 handed them red-ratings meaning "successful delivery of the program to time, cost and quality appears to be unachievable."

The watchdog's report said that while the Government had reduced its use of hotels for housing asylum seekers by 60, it had experienced losses and created risk by hastily implementing plans to build the large sites.

According to NAO boss Gareth Davies, "The Home Office continued this programme despite external and internal assessments that it could not be delivered as planned."

"The Home Office should reflect on lessons learned from establishing its large sites programme at speed and improve coordination with central and local government given wider housing pressures," Davies said.

Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called the findings "staggering."

She goes on to say, "The British taxpayer is already paying out eye-watering sums on asylum hotels, and now it turns out the sites they promised would save money are costing the taxpayer even more. Rishi Sunak has taken the Tories' chaos and failure in the asylum system to a new level."

Chief executive of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, told the Guardian it is "another alarming example of bad policies being implemented badly at huge financial and human cost."

Steve Smith, the CEO of migrant charity Care4Calais, which has launched legal action against the British Government over the use of Wethersfield for asylum accommodation, added: "Someone in Government has to be held accountable for the fear and trauma they have created."

Home Office spokesperson said, "We acted swiftly to reduce the impact on local communities by moving asylum seekers onto barges and former military sites."

"While we must provide adequate accommodation for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute, thanks to the actions we have taken to maximise the use of existing space and our work to cut small boat crossings by a third last year, the cost of hotels will fall – and we are now closing dozens of asylum hotels every month to return them to communities."