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23 July 2008

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£250 million contingency fund to ease migration pressures


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Peterborough City Council Leader Councillor John Peach called on the government to act urgently in setting up a £250 million contingency fund to help alleviate the pressures of large-scale migration on local authority budgets.

Recommendations for extra government funding and a radical overhaul of systems for measuring migration are contained in a report prepared by the Institute of Community Cohesion on behalf of the Local Government Association (LGA).

 John Peach


The report – ‘Estimating the Scale and Impacts of Migration at the Local Level’ – supports earlier city council calls for the government to distribute some of the tax revenues it receives from migrant workers to local authorities that are affected by migration.

It also echoes the city council’s complaint that existing systems are inadequate for calculating population growth – and the government’s formula grants – in areas that have experienced sudden, large-scale inflows of migrant workers since the enlargement of the European Union in May 2004. The report further supports the city council’s contention that the number of migrants in many areas has been significantly underestimated.

“It is good to have an official report backing up what the city council has been saying for some time,” said Council Leader, Councillor John Peach. “However, what we need now is urgent action by the government to correct the inequalities and inadequacies at the core of the whole issue for the benefit of existing communities that are affected by migration and for new arrivals themselves.

“While migrant workers are generating over £40 billion every year the money isn’t finding its way back to the local level. Official statistics on how many migrants are coming and where they are going are inadequate so much-needed funding for local services isn’t going to the right places.”

Mr Peach said that the sudden inflow of high numbers of migrant workers had placed pressures on public services because the government’s formula grant for local authorities was calculated on out-of-date population estimates.

He said that experience in Peterborough paralleled other areas covered by the LGA report with pressure being especially evident in areas such as: housing, with a rise in prices of cheap housing; extra costs for translation and interpretation services; work to prevent racial and cultural tension; health needs, because new arrivals are more likely to attend hospital accident and emergency departments for minor problems; and children’s services and education, with difficulties in dealing with transient families and pressure on school places.

Since Office for National Statistics estimates of population growth are based on the 10-year census, the report recommends consideration of a mid-term census in 2016 to improve accuracy. It also recommends that other data sources – such as GP registrations, National Insurance numbers and school census information – should be used to help calculate population figures.

Based on 2006/07 National Insurance number registrations, overseas nationals make up three per cent of Peterborough’s population, placing it 23rd in the local authority immigration rankings. However, Worker Registration Scheme data for 2004-07 places Peterborough sixth (behind South Holland and ahead of Fenland and East Cambridgeshire) with five per cent of the population coming from the new A8 European states.

November 2007 - Peterborough UK Community Website

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