Migrants ‘could heap pressure’ on struggling local authorities

Council in Yorkshire are still spending hundreds of thousands of pounds a year on translation and interpretation
Council in Yorkshire are still spending hundreds of thousands of pounds a year on translation and interpretation
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AN INFLUX of new migrants from Bulgaria and Romania next year could heap more pressure on Yorkshire’s councils to provide extra translation and interpretation services.

A number of the region’s local authorities said there had been an increasing demand for European languages in recent years to justify their rising spending.

Now it is feared “big numbers” of workers arriving from the two nations when labour restrictions are lifted at the end of the year could put an extra strain on their budgets.

Yorkshire and Humber MEP Godfrey Bloom said it should not fall to council tax payers to ensure their languages are catered for.

“I don’t think it’s my responsibility or old age pensioners’ in Pontefract and Wakefield, struggling to get by, to pick up the tab,” said the Ukip politician.

“If Romanians and Bulgarians come here in big numbers, why should little old ladies pay for that?

“I don’t think it’s the responsibility of the rate-payer.”

Mr Bloom said any authority “worth its spine” would not pay “a penny piece” towards such services.

“This shouldn’t be a local remit on local councils,” he said.

“People must learn the language, they must integrate.”

Providing translation and interpretation “keeps people in ghettos” in areas including parts of Bradford where English is “not only not spoken, it is not required to be spoken”, he claimed.

“You are not helping these people by providing translation services, you are harming them by keeping them in poor housing areas,” he said.

Bulgarian and Romanian citizens have been able to live in the UK since the nations joined the EU in 2007 but currently face restrictions on the kinds of jobs they can take.

Mr Bloom, who has previously warned of a “tidal flood” of new immigrants from the two countries, said it was impossible to gauge how many would arrive from 2014. “But if you look at countries where the average wage is 100 euros a month, I think they are going to come here in big numbers,” he said.

Mr Bloom’s concerns were echoed by the Mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies. “The Government got the numbers of other European countries wrong and I have no doubt local councils will be left in these situations to pick up the pieces – and I am sure there will be no more money to provide the various infrastructures to cope with this open door European policy,” he said.

A report published this month by the National Institute of Social and Economic Research said councils “may wish” to ensure translation and interpretation services were available to meet the needs of new arrivals in their areas but particular preparations for Bulgarians and Romanians were “unlikely to be necessary”.

But it also warned that cuts to councils’ budgets may affect their ability to deal with any increased demand for services – particularly language support – resulting from further migration from the two countries. The report was unable to predict how many Bulgarians or Romanians may arrive but said their impact on public services was likely to be “modest”.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of pressure group Migration Watch UK, who has branded the report a “whitewash”, said: “Providing translation and interpretation is the wrong way to go. We should instead be ensuring that everyone speaks our common language.”

Eric Pickles last month ordered councils to stop pointlessly translating leaflets and documents into dozens of languages – a practice he said costs town halls nearly £20m a year. “Such translation services have an unintentional, adverse impact on integration by reducing the incentive for some migrant communities to learn English and are wasteful where many members of these communities already speak or understand English,” he said.

But critics have dismissed such attitudes as “unhelpful”.

Nushra Mansuri, a professional officer in the British Association of Social Workers, said taking away translation and interpretation services that help minority communities to engage with council services such as social care, would only breed “fear and mistrust” in authority and “store up greater social problems for the future”.

“It’s not healthy for people to live very segregated lives from one another,” she said. “The more we can do to create community cohesion, the better.”