How much did Bibby Stockholm cost?

With the debate over the controversial barge continuing to rage, Yahoo News UK takes a look at how much it has cost.

PORTLAND, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10: Police officers look out over the Bibby Stockholm immigration barge, at Portland Port, on August 10, 2023 in Portland, England. The first residents arrived on August 7th as the British government seeks to relocate asylum seekers from government-leased hotels. The Home Office says the vessel can accommodate up to 500 migrants and rejected criticism that the facility is unsafe. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
Police officers look out over the Bibby Stockholm barge, used to house asylum seekers, at Portland Port. (Getty Images) (Finnbarr Webster via Getty Images)

Asylum seekers could be back on board the Bibby Stockholm barge in the coming days, after the vessel was evacuated over fears of Legionella bacteria.

The discovery forced migrants to disembark just days after arriving on the boat, prompting widespread criticism of the Home Office's handling of the project.

However, health minister Will Quince has said the presence of the bacteria, which can cause a potentially fatal type of pneumonia called Legionnaires' disease, was a "teething issue".

He told TalkTV that the Home Office is "determined to stick to the plan", insisting the "deterrence" against perilous crossings of the English Channel on small boats is working.

Quince told LBC that "public health and safety is key", adding: "We hope in the next few days we will be able to start getting people on to the Bibby Stockholm."

Read more: Asylum seekers on board Bibby Stockholm say Legionella outbreak 're-traumatised' them

PORTLAND, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Protesters against the Bibby Stockholm immigration barge target Portland Port after the arrival of the cruise ship Regal Princess, on August 13, 2023 in Portland, England. More than three dozen migrants who arrived on the Bibby Stockholm barge this week have been temporarily relocated after traces of legionella bacteria were found in the barge's water supply. The Home Office has leased the barge to provide accommodation for asylum seekers and reduce its use of hotels. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
Protesters against the Bibby Stockholm immigration barge target Portland Port. (Getty Images) (Finnbarr Webster via Getty Images)

While the government is sticking to its guns, it continues to face criticism from human rights groups and MPs on both sides of the Commons.

Tory backbencher and former Brexit secretary David Davis accused the Home Office of "startling incompetence", while others have questioned if the project will really save public money as intended.

As the controversial "floatel" barge continues to make headlines, Yahoo News UK looks into how much the operation is costing the taxpayer.

How much does the Bibby Stockholm cost?

The annual cost of the Bibby Stockholm barge is estimated to be a minimum of £18,565,500, according to a report published by Reclaim the Sea, a non-profit organisation supporting refugees.

It says this is a conservative estimate, as there are likely to be unknown costs, costs that aren't payable by the Home Office, and potential legal action that could cost the government more.

The estimate is also made on the assumption that the barge hosts one cohort of 500 people across the entire year, when in reality people are likely to come and go, with additional dispersal costs expected to add to the overall bill.

Read more: Inside Bibby Stockholm 'floatel' as first asylum seekers board barge

Based on this criteria, Reclaim the Sea has estimated the daily cost per head of the Bibby Stockholm to be £100.52.

So far, however, the number of people on board hasn't reached anywhere close to 500 – so as long as it is under-capacity, the cost per person will be considerably higher.

Yahoo News UK has asked the Home Office for its own breakdown of costs for the Bibby Stockholm.

'Murky' government contract

In June, The Independent revealed that Australian company Corporate Travel Management (CTM) would be paid £1.6bn over two years – without competition.

The contact is to manage the containment of asylum seekers on an unknown number of vessels, including the Bibby Stockholm, and an unknown number of hotels.

No information was available on how this sum would be divided between barges and hotels. The company hit headlines after it was awarded at least two lucrative COVID-related contracts, with the government responding evasively to questions over competitive tendering processes.

Read more: What are the government's plans to curb small boats crossing the Channel?

John O'Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "This murky contract leaves taxpayers in the dark. The migrant crisis may require an urgent response, but bungled procurement has cost a fortune in recent years. Ministers must ensure transparency and value for money when tendering services."

How much is spent on hotels for migrants, and will the Bibby Stockholm save money?

One of the government's primary reasons for the Bibby Stockholm project was to cut costs of hotels used to house asylum seekers while they are being processed through the system.

Around £5.6m a day is currently spent on providing hotel accommodation for upwards of 45,500 asylum seekers, the government said earlier this year.

This does not include an additional £1.2m a day is spent on providing bridging accommodation for Afghan evacuees, who can come to the UK via a different system, according to analysis by FullFact.

Reclaim the Sea's report puts the daily cost per head of hotels at £109.80, based on 51,000 people with a collective daily cost of £5.6m.

Read more: How 'small boats week' turned into a nightmare for Sunak and Braverman

Beresford Hotel Refugee protest & Counter Protest, Newquay, Cornwall
Protesters and counter-protesters outside the Beresford Hotel, used to house asylum seekers, in Newquay, Cornwall. (Getty Images) (jory mundy)

With this in mind, it has estimated that the Bibby Stockholm has led to a daily per-head saving of just £9.28. It added that "this difference will shrink" when "presently unknown costs", such as legal bills, utilities, repairs and refurbishments, are taken into account.

"It is highly likely that the barge will offer no saving on the daily £5.6m hotel bill – and in fact it is likely to cost more," Reclaim the Sea added in its report.

Using the numbers to paint a bigger picture, the organisation pointed out that 500 people on board the Bibby Stockholm would account for fewer than 1% of 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels.

It added: "Therefore, even saving a maximum of £9.28 per head, the daily £5.6m hotel bill would only drop by a trivial £4,694 per day, or 0.08%. This moves that figure from £5,600,000 to £5,595,306."

Watch: Asylum seeker who left Bibby Stockholm accuses government of 'endangering lives'