Thursday, November 01, 2007

Local Authority Migration Squeeze

Slough's unemployed Pakistani workers have been big losers*

When we first blogged the migrant problems in Slough last August (see here), the official line from the Commissars was that it was all hugely overblown. Ludicrous wibblers like the £13m pa tax-funded Immigration Advisory Service, assured us that Slough's 15,000 new arrivals were young and single, so didn't make much call on public services. That was despite the fact that just two of Slough's primary schools had taken in 50 Polish and 60 Somali kids in just one term.

One year on, in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence from the real world, the Commissars have had to moderate their line. The ridiculous chipmunk now says:

"The effects of migration can put a strain on public services, especially when there is a large movement into an area in a short space of time and we recognise that some individual local authorities are experiencing more challenges than others."

Brilliant! No wonder she's ruling over us.

But what practical steps is she taking? She reckons she's dolloping out another pile of our cash to sort it. The LAs actually facing the problems are unimpressed.

Indeed, the Local Government Association has just published a detailed paper looking at the impact on individual LAs. They highlight the following costs:
  • Churn in schools – the pressures include translation services, numeracy and literacy of young children, understanding cultural differences, mid-term arrivals, and the lack of records and assessments.

  • Child protection – it can be highly complex to investigate the family situation of transient families and ensure effective safeguarding of children, the complexities being exacerbated by language difficulties and cross-cultural issues. In addition, some councils are incurring costs linked to the care of unaccompanied children, be they from countries with unregulated entry to the UK, or linked to asylum seeking.

  • Language barriers – meeting the basic information needs of migrants, translation and interpretation, supporting complex advice needs and communicating in emergencies are issues faced by all public sector partners.

  • Housing – many migrants are living in overcrowded properties in a poor state of repair, sometimes with a high fire risk or other health and safety problems. The complexities of supply, demand, entitlement and need pose short and longer-term challenges.

  • Community cohesion – Many respondents reported tensions and
    different levels of conflict

  • Community safety – many authorities reported that migrants were more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators. Vehicle related crime including absent or forged documentation and drink driving is being addressed by information campaigns in some police authorities.

  • Health – the impact is increasing albeit from a low base, particularly in relation to inappropriate use of A&E instead of GPs and increased use of maternity services, often late, making planning difficult.

So out there on the ground, away from the marble palaces of the Commissariat, there are a host of specific additional public service costs associated with immigration. Which is why the LGA is asking for a special new £250bn fund to bail out LAs who find themselves under the cosh.

As we know, this whole problem is hugely compounded by the centralisation of taxation, which means that LAs get very little of the additional tax revenue generated by the additional workers in their own areas. The LAs have to fund the extra services, but Whitehall gets the extra tax revenue.

Roll on fiscal decentralisation (eg see this blog).

And roll on immigration controls.

*Footnote- As you may recall from last year's blog, the employment rate of the Pakistani community in Slough dropped from around 71% in 2002 to just 53.2% in 2005. They'd largely been displaced by new immigrants.

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