Select Committee on Communities and Local Government Committee Tenth Report

2  Effect of migration on community cohesion

Numbers of migrants

10.  Despite the widespread movement of people within England, the main focus of public concern is immigration. Immigration levels have significantly increased in recent years, particularly following the accession of eight new states to the European Union in 2004.[14] Net migration—defined as immigration minus emigration from the UK—has, according to recent figures, been the main driver of UK population growth since 1998.[15] In 2006, an estimated 191,000 more people immigrated to than emigrated from the UK.[16] In 2006-07 National Insurance number registrations to overseas nationals increased by 51,000 to a total of 713,000. The largest increase in registrations was to accession nationals, which increased by 16 per cent from the previous year to a total of 321,000.[17]

11.  Immigration has become increasingly dispersed throughout England, leading to new arrivals living in areas that have had little previous history of ethnic diversity. London has historically been the main destination for new migrants, but other areas are becoming increasingly popular. For example, since 1999 the East of England region has experienced the largest increase in immigration, with a recorded 60,000 immigrants arriving in 2006.[18] The increased dispersal of migrants means that the effects of migration are being felt by people across the country, and as such policies to address the effects are needed nationally as well as locally.

12.  There is a national debate taking place on the actual number of migrants in the UK, and the appropriate level of inward migration. While we acknowledge that this is an important debate, and comment on the need for accurate migration statistics, this has not been the central point of our inquiry. We are concerned with the type of effects that local communities are experiencing from migration and how best to respond to them.

Tensions between migrant and settled communities

24 per cent of those surveyed believed that there was a 'great deal' of tension between people of different races and nationalities. And 52 per cent said they believed that there was a 'fair amount' of tension. Only four per cent thought there was no tension at all.—MORI Poll, April 2008[19]

13.  Tensions exist within and between all communities, not only between new migrants and settled white populations. During our visit to Barking and Dagenham, the police informed us that the most significant level of reported hate crime in the area was of white-on-white crime between people of different nationalities.[20] In Burnley, there remain tensions between settled white and second and third generation Asian communities. We were told that racially motivated crime, including assaults, on both Asian and white people was a problem in the area.[21] The Community Development Foundation (CDF) told us that it was aware of new patterns of racial prejudice and hostility between settled Asian and Caribbean communities and new ethnic minorities, who may resent the increased competition for 'race equality' resources.[22] Trevor Phillips argued that the potential and actual conflict between new and last wave migrants is a phenomenon that has been neglected in the national policy debate on migration and cohesion. He explained that many new migrants move into areas adjacent to the last wave. The settled migrants can resent new arrivals whom they do not perceive as having worked as hard as their generation.[23] And indeed 47 per cent of Asian respondents in a 2007 MORI poll agreed with the statement that there were too many migrants in Britain.[24]

14.  Some degree of tension between individuals is not necessarily problematic and can be seen as an indication of a healthy democracy. The problem is when tensions escalate to a point where they negatively affect community cohesion. Open disturbances between migrant and settled communities are rare. Thankfully, to date no disturbances have occurred on the scale of those which took place in Burnley, Bradford, and Oldham in the summer of 2001 between settled Asian and white communities—though there have been localised disturbances in areas such as the Caia Park estate, Wrexham, and Boston, Lincolnshire.[25] Although they may not be widespread, we are still concerned about tensions between migrants and settled residents, and how through addressing the underlying causes of these tensions disturbances may be prevented from arising. Our evidence, particularly from our visits, indicated that there are many tensions relating to practical issues and fears over the changing nature of communities, and the pace of that change, as well as concerns about the pressures placed on public services from migration.

15.  The case studies below show the types of tensions and concerns that local people expressed to us on our visits.
Peterborough, East of England

The area has experienced the arrival of large numbers of Eastern European migrant workers. Many migrants work in the fields surrounding Peterborough providing agricultural labour.

65 per cent of the local population believe that people of different backgrounds get on well together in their local area, in comparison to the national average of 82 per cent. Peterborough has the 21st lowest level of cohesion out of 386 local authority areas.[26]

Concerns raised about migration included the increase in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs); anti-social behaviour; litter and fly-tipping; drugs; prostitution; street drinking; car crime; benefit abuse; the limited English of migrants; the pace of change; and pressures on public services.

Burnley, Lancashire

The area has significant settled second and third generation Asian communities alongside settled white communities. Burnley has experienced increasing deprivation with the decline of its traditional manufacturing base. It is ranked 21 out of all local authorities in England in terms of average deprivation.[27] The area has also experienced a steady decline in its overall population.

53 per cent of the local population believe that people of different backgrounds get on well together in the local area. Burnley has the third lowest level of cohesion out of all local authority areas in the country.[28]

Concerns were raised on the separateness of Asian and white communities; the limited spoken English of many Asian women; the effects of arranged marriages on integration; hate crime based on nationality and race; and deprivation.

Barking and Dagenham, London

The area, particularly Dagenham, has experienced a significant increase in ethnic diversity, with people of many different nationalities, primarily migrants from inner-London Boroughs, moving into the area. Barking and Dagenham is ranked 22 out of 354 local authorities in England in terms of average deprivation.[29]

Barking and Dagenham has the second lowest level of cohesion out of all local authority areas in the country.[30]48 per cent of local residents believe that people of different backgrounds get on well together in the local area.

Residents' concerns included the pressures on social and affordable housing; the pace of change; and pressures on public services, such as schools.


16.  These case studies show that settled residents often have practical issues of concern about migration—though these concerns do not relate exclusively to migrants.[31] We were struck by the similarity in the concerns expressed by migrants that we met in Peterborough, and Barking and Dagenham, to those of settled communities. Migrants acknowledged that there were valid concerns about the effect of migration on crime, litter, housing, and the limited spoken English of new arrivals.[32] Sarah Spencer, Associate Director at the Centre for Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), also found from her research that migrants and non-migrants had a striking degree of agreement on issues of concern about their local neighbourhood.[33] Public concerns about the effects of migration cannot simply be dismissed as racist or xenophobic. Tensions often arise on real practical issues, such as the proliferation of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

17.  Many witnesses expressed concerns about the problems associated with HMOs. While migrants are not the sole occupant of HMOs, witnesses reported that many of these dwellings were increasingly being occupied by migrants, particularly by single male working adults.[34] In Peterborough, residents were very concerned about the rapid increase in the number of HMOs in their area, in response to demand from migrants moving into the area. Mr Blake-Herbert, Director of Resources, Slough Borough Council, reported that Slough had seen a net growth in HMOs catering for the new migrant population.[35] Fenland District Council estimates that the vast majority of HMOs in its borough cater for migrants and that they continue to receive reports of properties being converted to HMOs to house migrant workers.[36] Figures from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) show that 60 per cent of new migrants to the UK in the last five years live in private rented accommodation.[37] Despite some local evidence on the number of migrants living in HMOs, no national assessment appears to have been made of the overall effect of migration on the number of HMOs.

18.  There are many problems associated with the proliferation and concentration of HMOs. Peterborough residents reported an increase in fly-tipping and uncollected rubbish as a result of homes being converted into HMOs.[38] Mr Blake-Herbert stated that, in Slough, one of the key complaints about HMOs in Slough was the "level of refuse that is created within those individual properties".[39] The Chartered Institute of Housing argued that the "poor management of properties exacerbates the problems, and can affect community cohesion in an area (e.g. if rubbish accumulates, if people are coming and going at night due to shift work)".[40]

19.  HMOs do not just cause problems for the people living in surrounding properties. The people living in the HMOs themselves can also suffer from poor quality housing, overcrowding and unscrupulous landlords.[41] The Local Government Association (LGA) pointed out that a minority of landlords exploit migrant workers with many living in "overcrowded properties in a poor state of repair with attendant fire or other health and safety problems".[42] Fenland District Council told us that it had experienced several serious fire incidents in HMOs the last few years, and that the vast majority of the occupants were migrants.[43]

20.  One of the ways in which local authorities are tackling HMOs and their associated problems is through the HMO licensing scheme. The Housing Act 2004 introduced compulsory licensing for HMOs, and enabled local authorities to apply for extended licensing powers where there are problems. Peterborough City Council told us that it was seeking to extend its licensing powers to tackle the problems associated with unscrupulous landlords, who often take advantage of migrants, but that it had found the process long and excessively bureaucratic.[44]

21.  The Government has recently acknowledged, in its Migration Impacts Plan, that migration may have an effect on the number of HMOs. It has made a new commitment to ensuring that its commissioned review of the private rented sector examines the effect of migration. The Government also states that it will "work with local authorities to develop discretionary licensing schemes in those local authority areas with a high number of properties housing migrant workers".[45] We welcome the Government's commitment to ensuring that the review of the private rented sector examines the effect of migration on housing. We recommend that the review include a detailed assessment of the effects of migration on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and the problems which result both for existing communities and for the individuals who live in them. We also welcome the Government's commitment to supporting local authorities in the use of their discretionary licensing powers. However, further action is needed. We reiterate the recommendation made in our Report The Supply of Rented Housing, where we argued that the Government should make it easier for local authorities to regulate HMOs, and in particular that the process of applying for extended licensing should be easier.[46] In areas where migrants tend to live in HMOs, public concern about migration can be reduced if the problems of HMOs are tackled.

The pace of change

25 per cent of British adults felt that local areas were losing their sense of Britishness because of immigration, a 13 per cent increase from 2005—MORI poll, April 2008[47]

22.  People are worried about the cultural effects of migration as well as the visible impact. During our visits, people repeatedly stressed to us their fears over the scale and pace of migration into their local area. In Barking and Dagenham, one resident that we met stated that many long-standing residents no longer felt safe as they no longer knew their neighbours, and consequently many white people were moving out of the area. Others voiced their concerns about the lack of spoken English.[48] The residents we spoke to in Peterborough, and Barking and Dagenham, argued that there were simply too many migrants moving into the area in a short time period.

23.  The pace of change in some local areas has been dramatic. Barking and Dagenham Borough Council told us that its area has experienced the fastest changing demography in the country: "in 1991, only 6.8% of the borough's population was non-white […] and is now, it is estimated, approximately 25%".[49] Dagenham has experienced a particular change, primarily from the movement of people from inner-London boroughs who are attracted to the area by the availability of cheaper accommodation, rather than directly from other countries.[50] Slough Borough Council described the severity of the consequences for the local area of the pace of change:

If the town continues to attract in poorer communities that cause both white flight and the flight of wealthier sections of the other non-white communities, its future sustainability is in doubt.[51]

24.  The feeling that a community is changing too quickly can be exacerbated in areas that have little previous history of inward migration. The CIC report identified three types of areas where the newness of diversity can lead to particular cohesion problems: urban areas, such as outer London boroughs; rural areas, such as areas around the Wash; and ethnically diverse urban areas, such as inner cities that are experiencing new migration from non-commonwealth countries.[52] Evidence from our visits supports the CIC's findings. Peterborough (located near the Wash), and Barking and Dagenham (an outer London borough) have experienced rapid change and experience poor cohesion. The rapid pace of change experienced by many communities has led to increased local public concern about migration and can negatively affect community cohesion.

Q 1  The national picture

25.  Nationally, there is a positive picture of cohesion, with 82 per cent of people agreeing with the statement that people of different backgrounds get on well in their local area.[53] Locally, the picture of cohesion is quite varied, with cohesion levels ranging between 38 and 90 per cent.[54] A small minority of local authority areas have significantly low levels of cohesion; ten local authority areas out of 386 have levels below 60 per cent.[55]

26.  There is no straightforward relationship between the number of migrants in an area and levels of cohesion. Figure 1 illustrates this, using National Insurance number allocations in 2006-07 as an indicative proxy for migrant numbers.[56] The areas ringed in black are the 20 per cent least cohesive local authority areas in the country. Although some areas have experienced high levels of migration and poor cohesion, it is not always the case that the one leads to the other. For example, some inner-London boroughs such as Newham and Brent have experienced high levels of recent migration,[57] yet experience cohesion levels above the national average.[58] This may be because these areas have a history of diversity and migration. On the other hand, Boston has the lowest level of cohesion in the country and has experienced high levels of recent migration. The Secretary of State informed us that an estimated 25 per cent of the Boston population is from Eastern Europe.[59]

27.  Figure 1 and the example areas above demonstrate that local communities are complex, and there are many interrelated factors that can influence how cohesive the area is. The CIC concluded that there are a wide variety of factors influencing cohesion and identified five as key: deprivation, discrimination, crime and antisocial behaviour, diversity and immigration.[60] The Commission suggested that attention should be focused on areas that are experiencing change and that are less affluent. In its memorandum to our inquiry, the Government stated that "affluent areas experiencing migration usually have higher than average cohesion".[61] Data from the Citizenship Survey showed that people's perceptions of community cohesion declined the greater the extent of deprivation in their area.[62]

28.  There is no straightforward relationship between the number of migrants in an area and levels of cohesion. Some areas experience high inward migration yet have a good level of cohesion in comparison to the national average. Nevertheless, cohesion can be negatively affected by migration, particularly in areas where there is poverty and/or little previous experience of diversity.

Figure 1: Community cohesion and non-UK National Insurance number allocations, 2006-07

14   Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Back

15   ONS, Components of Population Change, UK, 22 August 2007, Back

16   ONS, Total International Migration 1997-2006, 20 May 2008, Back

17   Department for Work and Pensions, National Insurance Number Allocations to Overseas Nationals entering the UK 2007,  Back

18   ONS, Total International Migration 1997-2006, 20 May 2008, Back

19   Ipsos MORI, Rivers of Blood Survey, April 2008, Back

20   Annex  Back

21   Annex  Back

22   Ev 90. See also Q 33. Back

23   Q 6 Back

24   Ev 78 Back

25   Ev 75 Back

26   The Audit Commission, Best Value Performance Indicator (BVPI) data 2006-07. Back

27   Multiple Indices of Deprivation 2007 Back

28   BVPI data 2006-07 Back

29   Multiple Indices of Deprivation 2007 Back

30   Boston, Lincolnshire, had the lowest level of cohesion in 2006-07 at 38 per cent. BVPI data 2006-07. Back

31   Annex  Back

32   Annex. See also Q 184. Back

33   Q 184 Back

34   Q 44. See also Annex. Back

35   Q 44 Back

36   Ev 107 Back

37   EHRC and LGA, Allocation of Social Housing by Local authorities in England and Wales-letter to Chief Executives from Sir Simon Milton and Trevor Phillips, 8 April 2008, Back

38   Annex Back

39   Q 51 Back

40   Ev 76 Back

41   Q 49 Back

42   Ev 131 Back

43   Ev 107 Back

44   Annex  Back

45   Communities and Local Government, Managing the Impacts of Migration: A Cross-Government Approach, June 2008, p 30. Back

46   Communities and Local Government Committee, Eighth Report of Session 2007-08, The Supply of Rented Housing, HC 457, para 188. Back

47   Ipsos MORI, Rivers of Blood Survey, April 2008, Back

48   Annex  Back

49   Ev 132 Back

50   Annex  Back

51   Ev 148 Back

52   Our Shared Future, para 2.33. Back

53   Communities and Local Government, Citizenship Survey April - December 2007, England and Wales, p 10. Back

54   Ev 78 Back

55   Based on BVPI data 2006-2007, those 10 areas are: Boston, Barking and Dagenham, Burnley, Pendle, Oldham, Fenland, Thurrock, Great Yarmouth, South Holland, Stoke-on-Trent, and Corby.  Back

56   These figures should not be regarded as the total number of non-UK nationals, as there are a number of limitations on the data. NINO data do not show when overseas nationals subsequently depart the UK, the length of stay in the UK, nor record movement between UK areas: consequently the data do not provide information on outflows or movement within the UK. Non-UK nationals are not required to de-register when they move; consequently the data show the inflow of registrations but do not capture the movement of migrants within and out of the UK.. The figures exclude migrants who do not require a National Insurance number, for example students. Back

57   In Newham, 16,160 non-UK nationals registered for a National Insurance number in 2006-07; in Brent, 15,600 registrations were recorded. Back

58   The level of community cohesion in Newham and Brent is 85 percent, in comparison to the national average of 82 per cent. Back

59   Q 229 Back

60   Our Shared Future, para 2.15. Back

61   Ev 79 Back

62   Our Shared Future, para 2.17. Back

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