At this week’s meeting of full council, leader Councillor Barry Wood (Con, Fringford & Heyfords) vowed to team up with his opposition counterpart Councillor Sean Woodcock (Lab, Banbury Ruscote) to write a joint letter to central government in a bid to clarify how the region could assist displaced Ukrainians.
At that point uncertainty remained over national policy on refugees but some visa rules have since been relaxed to allow UK-based Ukrainian nationals to bring over a greater range of relatives including parents, grandparents, adult children, siblings and other immediate family members.
It is anticipated that will lead to up to 200,000 Ukrainian refugees making their way to these shores.
In asking Cllr Wood to “offer Cherwell as a sanctuary for those in need”, Cllr Woodcock said: “I have been appalled at what we have been seeing in Ukraine in recent days and I think I share sentiments with the entire chamber when I send solidarity to the people of that embattled country in their battle against despotism and aggression.”
Cllr Wood, who later committed to penning a joint letter representing those sentiments, replied: “You are right, the record of this council on accepting and housing refugees is a good one and we look to replicate that come the hour.”
An emergency motion on the crisis from Councillor Dan Sames (Con, Bicester South & Ambrosden) was also backed unanimously across all parties.
“There is a real potential for this conflict to escalate and I don’t believe that is a fact we can ignore,” he said.
“It could draw in military personnel, both full-time and reserves based and living in his district.
“In a similar way to climate change, like it or not, this district will start to feel the impact of a prolonged and escalated conflict. Residents will be impacted economically in the short term and perhaps to an even greater extent if the situation deteriorates.
“I am sure you will all agree that we need to denounce this situation and the naked aggression by President Putin against a peaceful and sovereign nation and I ask the executive to actively, as the leader indicated earlier, consider any request to provide assistance to any refugees displaced by the conflict.”
Lead member for housing Councillor Lucinda Wing (Con, Bicester South & Ambrosden) said: “I am pleased to see Councillor Wood has agreed to write to central government to ask them how we can support Ukrainian refugees.
“To assure members, when I meet with housing officers this week I will be asking how we are poised and ready to support that when it comes.”