Select Committee on Communities and Local Government Committee Tenth Report


There is no straightforward relationship between the number of migrants in a particular community and levels of cohesion within it. England has experienced a number of waves of migration in its recent history. Most of the people who arrived here have stayed, and their children, have also. Today, we face a different type of migration, with many economic migrants not planning to stay long term, and this presents different challenges for integration and cohesion.

Many migrants make significant contributions to local communities, for instance working in our public services such as the NHS. The arrival of new migrants need not have a detrimental effect on cohesion, although we found that it can have a negative effect on community cohesion, particularly in areas that are experiencing a rapid pace of change and/or deprivation.

There is significant public anxiety about migration, some of which arises from practical concerns about its effect on local communities. On our visits we heard from settled residents about many such concerns, including the limited English of new arrivals; the problems associated with Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) lived in by migrants; a perceived increase in anti-social behaviour; and pressures on public services. The practical concerns of settled residents about migration need to be addressed by central and local government for cohesion to be improved, and cannot simply be dismissed as expressions of racist or xenophobic sentiments.

Recent migration has placed pressures on local public services in areas that have experienced rapid inward migration, including pressures on schools, translation services, social care, English language teaching, policing and the NHS. These pressures are currently left unfunded by Government, because resource allocations are being made on the basis of flawed population data. Leaving local services with inadequate funding to cope with added pressures from migration is not only detrimental to the service provided to local communities; increased competition between groups for access to limited public resources can also negatively affect community cohesion. We recommend immediate action to ensure the adequate funding of local public services that are under pressure from migration, and the establishment of a contingency fund to address the current funding shortfall.

Many organisations have responsibility for, or are involved in, promoting cohesion and integration. Local authorities have a critical role in providing community leadership and co-ordinating action. Political leadership is a vital ingredient in effective action to promote cohesion, for instance in taking action to counter myths about migrants. The effective integration of migrants into local communities is dependent on migrants having contact with settled residents. One way in which integration can be increased is through local authorities encouraging existing community groups to involve migrants in their organisations.

One of the main barriers to the integration of migrants is the limited English of new arrivals. The Government has a responsibility to ensure that English language tuition is accessible to migrants. Currently this is not the case, with demand for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) far outstripping the supply. We agree that employers should pay more towards the cost of provision for their employees, but this does not negate the fact that the primary responsibility for provision lies with Government.

The Government has increased its activity on cohesion and migration over the past year. Nonetheless, there is still room for improvement. The Government needs to ensure that action across departments is co-ordinated. In particular, the Government's migration policy needs to ensure that it takes into account the effect of migration on community cohesion.

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