SERCO and the Home Office have defended themselves against allegations the contract transferring the accommodation of asylum seekers in Blackburn and Darwen to the company was ‘poorly managed’.

They have revealed there are 312 refugees housed in the borough, below the promised limit of 350.

The all-party Commons Public Accounts Committee said the first year of the new deal ‘did not go well’ and accommodation was ‘often unacceptably poor’.

In 2012 the Home Office replaced 22 contracts with six regional ones to save £140million over seven years.

One, worth £175million, went to SERCO taking over the job in Blackburn with Darwen from the council.

In 2012 Blackburn MP Jack Straw expressed concern the company could double the number of refugees in the borough to 700, placing ‘intolerable strains’ on the town.

A deal promising no increase was agreed in October that year.

A SERCO spokeswoman said: “We have worked extremely hard to raise standards since late 2012.

“Serco at all times concentrated on minimising disruption to service users.

“We should have done more to confirm properties met necessary standards. We have improved inspection and maintenance procedures.”

A Home Office spokesperson said it was ‘disappointed with the PAC’s findings’, but accepted ‘there are challenges with the contracts’.