Defence minister Gerald Howarth has warned the prime minister that an influx of former Ghurkha soldiers and their dependents is causing “deep concern” to his constituency’s local authority Rushmoor BC.
Ghurkhas were formerly stationed near Aldershot and their local numbers have increased since a campaign in 2009 led by actress Joanna Lumley (pictured) led to those who retired before 1997 gaining the right to settle in the UK.
Mr Howarth’s said in a letter to David Cameron that this change had “had a very significant impact over a very short period of time and it is now estimated that 10% of the Borough of Rushmoor’s population of approximately 90,000 is Nepalese.
“This issue is of deep concern to the local authority and its leader as their services are in danger of being overwhelmed by this influx, as are those provided by the National Health Service, Citizens Advice Bureaux and local schools.”
Mr Howarth also warned of “immense tensions within the community”, worsened by there being a limited understanding of English among older former soldiers and their dependents.
Rushmoor gained £120,000 last summer from the government’s migration impact fund to pay for two full-time translators to work for it and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
But it said it now needed “a longer-term financial commitment from the government” to cope with the Nepalese community’s needs.
Rushmoor also argued that population data used to calculate its grant failed to take account of the increasing number of Nepalese residents.
Hampshire CC is responsible for the area’s social services. Its leader Ken Thornber (Con) said: “Our priority remains the ongoing provision of value for money, quality services to all of Hampshire’s residents to ensure that those who need our services the most, are able to benefit from them.
“In this context we always welcome initiatives by Hampshire MPs to ensure that the needs of all communities are met.”
A spokesman for the British Ghurkha Welfare Society said: “We understand the pressure put on the council by an influx of elderly people without language skills and relying on benefits.
“We understand it is applying for a special grant, but the statement from Gerald Howarth was unhelpful as it has worried people.
“You cannot stop people settling here, the Ghurkhas were based in Aldershot and have settled here since 2004.”
Ghurkhas have been recruited from Nepal to the British Army since the early 19th century.