Monday, May 14, 2007

Costs Of Immigration

Local council dependency funding

Last year we blogged the serious problems Slough was experiencing with the latest huge wave of immigration from Eastern Europe. And alarmingly, the problems seem to be getting worse.

First, the town has now been targeted by an influx of unaccompanied Roma gypsy orphans from Romania. 90 have arrived since Romania joined the EU on 1 January, and they've already cost Slough council taxpayers £150,000.

Second, the underfunding issue has been exacerbated by new migration statistics. As you may recall, the issue here is that the stats used to allocate central government funding (the Revenue Support Grant) were not being updated quickly enough to reflect the new migrant influx. Now, although the Office for National Statistics has revamped its methodology, it apparently reduces funding for many places in Slough's position:

"The council leaders of Slough, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham say the "improved" method of calculating immigration, introduced last month, does not "remotely" represent the true picture on the ground.

Richard Stokes, leader of Slough Borough Council, said poor migration statistics were already leading to severe underfunding. 'Estimates have failed to keep pace with what is happening on the ground and public services are suffering as a result,' he said."

And according to the BBC, two-thirds of local authorities they contacted do "not have faith in the official number of migrants in their area".

Given the present scale of migration, this is a major problem. Because, although last year the government's Immigration Advisory Service ludicrously claimed the migrants don't impose costs on local authorities, in reality many of them cost a packet (education, housing, social services, translation services etc etc).

Yet all Immigration Minister Liam Byrne says is the government will try to keep a "closer track" of the situation. Brilliant.

The underlying problem of course is that local councils are far too dependent on central government for their funding. Whereas the councils face 100% of the costs of services for migrants, they only get back a small share of the taxes migrants pay (assuming the migrants are not in the black economy, that is, in which case there's no tax to share).

Most of the taxes migrants pay go to central government, with councils only able to garner a small share of their tax funding directly from their own council tax (which is anyway capped, and also entirely incapable of hitting young migrants crammed 15 to a house).

Council taxpayers in areas of high immigration need to start squawking for fiscal decentralisation.
PS Last week, being the chauffeur's annual holiday, Tyler took his filthy motor to a new car cleaning service nearby. It had been highly recommended, and didn't disappoint. For £14, the car got the most thorough sprucing- inside and out- it has ever had. And all done in a highly professional manner by hand, inside a dedicated valeting bay, while-u-wait. But what amazed Tyler was the sheer number of people involved- with no exaggeration it was about a dozen, who... well, swarmed is the word, all over the car. Their spokesman explained they were all Poles who'd mostly arrived in the last year. Very good- total customer satisfaction and presumably much repeat business. But you couldn't help wondering how they can afford to live round our way. And indeed, who's paying.

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