The Home Office has cut Croydon Council's funding for looking after hundreds of child asylum-seekers by £4m, it has emerged.

Council leader Tony Newman denounced the reduction as "completely unacceptable" and called for the money, which amounts to about a fifth of the authority's £20m budget for caring for young refugees, to be restored as the UK prepares to take in thousands of Syrians displaced by conflict.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday the country would accept 20,000 refugees from camps bordering Syria over the next five years following pressure for the Government to act on the growing humanitarian crisis.

Coun Newman pledged that Croydon would accommodate some of those, but urged the Government to "do the right thing" and ensure councils received financial support.

He said: "Absolutely we would want to support some families and if there are families coming to London then Croydon would play a part, but the Government has got to step up and not only support that with the proper funding as well as restoring the fund we've had cut."

The council currently looks after 469 child asylum-seekers, more than every local authority in the country except Kent. Croydon's headcount has grown from 387 in a year, an increase of 21 per cent.

Kent, Croydon and Hillingdon - the three "gateway" boroughs with the highest asylum-seeker populations - receive additional Government funding for each child in their care.

However, in July, following a Home Office review, the three councils learned the money they receive per head was to be cut.

They now receive £114 per per day for each child under 16, down from £137.50, and £91 for 16- and 17-year-olds instead of £114.

Croydon Council received about £20m through the scheme in 2014/15 and has calculated the new funding levels would reduce that to £16m if the borough's child asylum-seeker population remains the same size.

That population is expected to grow, meaning the funding loss is likely to amount to more than £4m.

Coun Newman said:"It is a huge cut, not just a little bit. It is completely unacceptable.

"Many people in Croydon want to help and that is great - the community feels very strongly - but our job as a council is to make sure that the funding is in place for those in need and there is not more pressure on local people in terms of that funding.

"We are calling on Government to do the right thing."

Your Local Guardian: Coun Tony Newman, Croydon Labour leader

Council leader Tony Newman described the cuts as "absolutely unacceptable"

The council is to hold talks with ministers in the next few weeks as it pushes for the cuts to be reversed.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are aware of the council’s concerns about funding reductions and are in the process of arranging a meeting with them to discuss these in more detail.

"It would be inappropriate to comment further before this meeting has taken place."


MP's u-turn

A Croydon MP who called for regime change in Syria to stem the growing refugee crisis has backtracked on claims the UK should not accept more asylum-seekers.

Chris Philp, the Conservative MP fo Croydon South, last week said taking in families displaced by civil war and Isis extremists "just encourages more people" to make perilous journeys to Europe.

He argued it was more important to address "the root cause of the problem by toppling Bashar Al-Assad's Syrian government.

Mr Philp said: "The problem is particularly [that] Syria and Libya are in enormous turmoil and you need to fix the source of the problem.

"I think we... should be making an effort to ensure Assad is toppled so that the war in Syria comes to an end.

"It is a heartbreaking problem, but I think us accepting a certain number of refugees doesn't fix the problem at source and actually just encourages more people to try to cross the Mediterranean in boats that are unsafe and more people will end up dying."

However, after Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday that the UK would accept 20,000 Syrian refugees over the course of the Parliamentary cycle, the Croydon South MP supported the decision.

He said yesterday: "This will help those most in need (rather than just those who have the money to pay illegal people smugglers), in a legal and properly organised way."


Your views: should Croydon take in refugees?

We sent reporter Sean Morrison to Croydon town centre to ask people if they thought the borough should accommodate Syrian asylum-seekers. Here is what they told him: 

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