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Official migration data is ‘rubbish’, says LGA

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The row over the effect of inaccurate population statistics on council grants intensified this week, with the Local Government Association trading blows with local government minister John Healey.

The LGA described the government’s data as “rubbish” after Mr Healey said calls for the creation of a£250m contingency pot were “not an acceptable answer”.

Meanwhile, Darra Singh, chair of the government’s Commission on Integration & Cohesion and chief executive of Ealing LBC, said the government should look to the continent where local authorities solved the problem through the use of residential registration schemes.

Speaking on the same day the LGA published its report criticising the government’s methods of collecting population statistics, Mr Healey refused to rule out further support in some cases but said the local government settlement was based on “the latest and best available data”.

“Simply calling for more government cash every time councils see a problem or a pressure arising is not an acceptable answer,” he said.

A spokesman for the LGA said: “This is the whole point. The best available data is rubbish.”
“We can’t expect the finance settlement to take account of population changes,” he continued. “It takes time and won’t happen overnight. So we have called for this contingency pot to prevent racial tensions in the meantime.”

Mr Singh told LGC the solution could lie in residential registration schemes as employed on the continent.

Pointing to a fact-finding trip last month, he said: “In Spain, they advertise through various media the need for people to register with the equivalent of their local town halls. It means there is a better understanding at a local level of who has moved into a local area.”

The LGA’s report concluded that mandatory registration schemes, as used in Scandinavia and Belgium, would prove too controversial to be implemented in the UK.

All eyes will now turn to a crunch meeting between communities and local government secretary Hazel Blears and members of Mr Singh’s commission on 22 November. The government is yet to fully respond to the commission’s proposals on the use of registration schemes for new migrants.

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