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Migration pressure on councils exposed

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New research on the impact of eastern European migration has claimed a significant increase in foreign worker numbers can be enough to lose a council a star rating in a year.

Cardiff University’s Centre for Local & Regional Government analysed immigration data on new arrivals from the so-called A8 European accession countries of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia between 2005 and 2006.

It said a doubling of migrant worker levels appeared to result in an average 3% drop in performance enough to influence a council’s star rating.

The study is likely to be cited by councils complaining that government grants have failed to take into account increased numbers of people placing demands upon services.

University research fellow Dr Rhys Andrews said applications for National Insurance (NI) numbers by A8 nationals were contrasted with core service performance figures from the comprehensive performance assessments for all 150 English single and top-tier councils.

“Places with a history of dealing with migration are better able cope with new influxes,” he said.

“But the findings are a sign that authorities need to invest more money in areas where they’re dealing with the challenges of migration.”

According to the centre, 228,000 NI numbers were allocated to staff from A8 nations in 2005 and 258,000 in 2006.

Local Government Association analyst Jill Mortimer said monitoring the often sub-standard housing rental markets catering to migrants was one area in which councils’ workload had increased.

She added the report appeared to support the LGA’s case for the creation of a£250m contingency fund to help councils deal with surges in population that were not immediately reflected by central government allocations.

Slough BC chief executive Ruth Bagley said while migration put additional pressure on services, her council had been able to drive up its performance as A8 workers arrived.

“There probably is some evidence that councils which have long-standing minority communities are better able to deal with further influxes,” she said.

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