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02.11.15

Local authorities should devise migration strategy before getting central funding – IPPR

Local authorities must devise strategies to outline how they will respond to demographic changes and higher migration to inform central government how much funding they would need, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has said today (2 November).

In a report, the think tank published a four-step plan to ensure councils are better placed to accommodate immigration and distribute central funds in the most suitable ways – starting by being more proactive about their understanding of trends affecting their local populations.

Once they learn about public trends, councils should plan out scenarios to pre-empt likely community pressures. This includes thinking systematically about how migration would affect public services and whether these have the capacity to meet future demand.

This plan is based on findings that every region in the UK will become more ethnically diverse in the coming decades, with the Office of National Statistics recently concluding that 51% of the projected 10 million population increase until mid-2039 will be due to assumed net migration.

Phoebe Griffith, IPPR’s associate director for migration and co-author of the report, said: “Opinion polls consistently show the majority of the public have fears about large unplanned immigration and politicians frequently respond with ever-tougher measures and rhetoric. This is getting us nowhere fast.

“We desperately need a new approach, which recognises the need to integrate migrants, rather than hoping the issue will go away. We think that national and local government, universities and established communities all have roles to play in making newly-arrived immigrants feel at home and want to participate fully in local community life."

The IPPR also said that having bespoke ‘one stop shop’ services aimed at migrants is not enough, with councils needing to evaluate the readiness of mainstream services to serve different cultural traits and practices.

Services like schools and healthcare, for example, should be assessed to ensure they can respond to more pupils learning English as an Additional Language or different age profiles.

Lastly, the think tank recommended councils engage with the local population either through local hearings or citizens’ juries.

But the report’s authors, Griffith and Julia Halej, added: “In the context of a public confidence crisis on migration, local authorities should embark on a programme of engagement only once they are armed with a clear sense of likely future trends and a plan for how the local area will respond – in other words, once they have completed steps 1-3 of the action plan. Launching an engagement drive with only limited data or without a strategic plan is likely to backfire.”

The think tank also said that councils should be given the discretion over how they allocate extra resources as part of the government’s commitment to launch a Controlling Migration Fund to ease local pressures.

It continued: “Depending on local circumstances, local authorities may opt to use additional funding to regulate private landlords and employers; prioritising the enforcement of housing and labour market rules is likely to be fairer, carries less risk of ethnic profiling and will have additional dividends.”

But it argued that, while councils should be given room to establish their own priorities, Whitehall should also make funds conditional on their ability to provide a strategic account of their priorities and liaise with local employers.

The IPPR also proposed that migration funding be targeted at areas ‘in transition’, meaning those most likely to experience the greatest pressures. This could be based on Home Office research that has already identified 26 councils (7% of all in the UK) as areas to have high migration.

(Top image c. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

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