Plea for funds to deal with migrant pressure

Business Secretary Vince Cable
Business Secretary Vince Cable
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COUNCIL and health bosses in Yorkshire need to be given rapid financial support to cope with “pressure points” caused by an influx of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants next year, a think-tank has warned.

A report from IPPR published today strongly criticises the Government for making “last-minute symbolic gestures” such as tightening benefits instead of ensuring areas that do experience pressure on school places, health services and housing can be helped.

One of the report’s authors told the Yorkshire Post that it was a legitimate concern that lifting the restrictions on workers from the two countries coming to the UK from January 2014 could add to the pressure on primary schools in parts of the region which are already facing a shortage of places.

But she said the think-tank did not expect the same level of migrants as happened in 2004 when the Government dropped restrictions on people from eight new members of the EU from Eastern Europe coming to the UK.

The IPPR report has been published amid rising tensions over the possible influx of Bulgarian and Romanians from next month and with the issue of immigration causing a massive rift within the coalition Government.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday pledged to block any fresh attempts to curb immigration from the European Union. The Liberal Democrat leader and Sheffield Hallam MP dismissed Home Office proposals for a 75,000 cap on EU migrants as “pointless”. Business Secretary Vince Cable went further accusing the Tories of being in a “panic” over immigration and comparing the current political climate to the infamous Enoch Powell “Rivers of Blood” speech in 1968.

The IPPR report claims the Government has panicked and rushed through measures – such as restricting EU migrants access to benefits – which the think-tank maintains is unlikely to “significantly” affect the flow of migration from Romania and Bulgaria.

The report says it is difficult to predict the scale of people coming into the UK once the temporary restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians is lifted, but its does say Britain will be able to absorb them if the Government puts measures in place to help deal with pressures which emerge in local areas. It criticises the decision to scrap the Migration Impacts Fund in 2010 which had allowed local authorities to deal with unexpected pressure on housing, schools and hospitals created by migration.

One of the report’s authors, Jenny Pennington, said reinstating this fund could allow councils in Yorkshire to apply for funding if it found the arrival of Bulgarians and Romanians led to increased pressure on school places.

But she confirmed the majority of workers who had arrived in the UK from the two countries since 2007, when they were allowed to work in certain areas, had tended to be young which suggested there might not be an immediate impact on school places.

The IPPR has called for a new Cabinet level committee led by a senior member of the Government to assess the impact of the migrants arriving.

The report says that while the majority of Bulgarian and Romanians coming since 2007 have been based in London and the South East, the pattern of Eastern European immigrants settling across the UK since 2004 was a “good indicator” of what might happen in future.

This suggests Yorkshire could see some sort of influx as a result of the end of temporary restrictions on people from Romania and Bulgaria coming to the UK. However, the think-tank also says it does not expect the same scale of migration as in 2004 as this time other EU countries are lifting restrictions at the same time.