HOUSING asylum seekers on the Portland barge is now so expensive it would be cheaper to provide each resident on it with a flat in Chelsea, or a rented house in Sandbanks.

The claim comes from a Dorset resident who has used a Freedom of Information request which suggest that at a maximum capacity of 430 over 18 months the cost to tax payer is £34.8M - almost £4,500 per month per head.

“ Enough to go on an all-inclusive month-long cruise or rent a flat in Chelsea, or 3 bed house each in Sandbanks,” said Dorset resident Kate Robson.

Figures she has obtained from the Home Office show that despite the maximum capacity rate the barge had 321 migrants on board at the end of January with running costs to April put at £12.9million, a figure which does not include grants to Dorset Police, voluntary organisations working with barge residents or Home Office administration costs.

“Portland Port's and the Home Offices covert, non-consultive, under the table business transition to moor the Bibby Stockholm at Portland Port has probably been the most divisive decision ever made within Weymouth & Portland. It serves no purpose and has failed to hit any of its objectives. It is not more cost effective nor is it a deterrent,” said Ms Robson in a statement to Thursday night's Dorset Council meeting.

She is asking the council to show exactly how the money it has received from the Home Office has been spent and is questioning why Dorset Council appears to be recruiting two full-time social workers to work primarily with asylum seekers on Portland when the contract for the barge runs out in 18 months time.

Her statement ends, suggesting that she believes an extension to the contract is likely: “how can a possible extension be substantiated given the cost and failures?”