Select Committee on Communities and Local Government Committee Tenth Report

3  Pressures on local public services

56 per cent of British adults believe that some groups get unfair priority access to public services. The groups most often named as receiving unfair priority were asylum seekers, refugees or immigrants. —2007 MORI poll[63]

29.  Migrants make use of a wide range of local public services, alongside the rest of the local population; any increase in a local population is likely to lead to some increased pressures on services. Witnesses drew our attention to a number of particular pressure points including translation services; community safety; social care, such as the increase in unaccompanied children; schooling; health care, and English language teaching.[64] As well as the pressures placed on services, the public is concerned about migrants' perceived unfair access to public services.

Pressures on local authority services

30.  The most commonly cited areas of concern about local authority services are the pressures on schools and social housing.


31.  Evidence to us stressed the difficulties faced by schools in coping with increases in migrant children. The Audit Commission notes that the arrival of migrants can make planning school places more difficult.[65] In Peterborough, we learnt that there were a number of school closures planned owing to the projected decline in the number of local children. However, the planned closures did not take into account the unexpected arrival of migrant children.[66] The unplanned arrival of migrant children can lead to increased competition for school places, which may cause tensions with the settled community.

32.  Concerns regarding the effect of migration on schools are not simply about the number of migrants. The limited English of migrant children was stated as a problem for many schools, causing difficulties for learning and increased costs.[67] The number of children who do not speak English as their first language is rising. In primary schools, the most recent figures show that 14.4 per cent of children did not speak English as their first language, in comparison to between seven and eight per cent of children in 2002. And in state-funded secondary schools, the most recent figures show that 10.8 per cent of pupils' first language is not English, in comparison to approximately 8.5 per cent of pupils in 2002.[68]

33.  Other difficulties that schools face in coping with increased migration stem from the diversity of new arrivals and the difficulty in placing children appropriately and responding to the flow of new arrivals during the school year. Schools can face particular challenges in catering for migrant children from a diverse range of countries, who may speak many different languages.[69] Schools can also find it difficult to cater for the educational needs of migrant children owing to their lack of educational records and assessments.[70] Migrant children arriving in the middle of the school year can be disruptive to the learning of the whole class.[71] The IPPR reported that mid-year arrivals can be costly, with increased administrative costs for schools and a lack of staff to cope with the additional intake.[72]


34.  Trevor Phillips told us that "there are millions of people who believe that migrants somehow 'jump the queue'" for social housing.[73] One Barking and Dagenham resident that we met suggested that this view was often held as ethnic minorities tended to have larger families than white people, and as a result qualified as in greater need for social housing, leading to resentment from white working-class indigenous communities.[74] Another resident suggested that confusion can arise because migrants may rent or own properties that were former council housing stock, and there is no visible way of distinguishing between the two.[75]

35.  The EHRC and the LGA commissioned a study of the allocation of social housing to investigate public fears over queue jumping. It found no evidence to suggest that the system gives migrants privileged access. Only two per cent of those in social housing are recent migrants who have entered the UK in the last five years. And 90 per cent of those in social housing are UK-born.[76] A8 migrants do not qualify for social housing until they have been in the UK for one year, and it is estimated that only one per cent live in social housing.[77] We welcome the EHRC and LGA commissioned study into the allocation of social housing, and welcome its interim report findings showing that there is no evidence to suggest that migrants receive unfair priority access to housing.

36.  Tensions between groups caused by issues of access to housing are undoubtedly exacerbated by the acute shortage of social and affordable housing in England. The waiting list for social housings has risen by almost 60 per cent since 1996, whilst social housing stock has reduced by more than 10 per cent since 1996.[78] In 1981, 32 per cent of households in England lived in a total of 5.5 million social rented homes. That figure has fallen to 3.8 million social rented homes today, 19 per cent of all households.[79] Residents in Barking and Dagenham told us that many local people waited years to access social housing. We were told that the sales of homes through Right to Buy had resulted in a significant decline in the stock of social housing in Barking and Dagenham, and consequently increased unmet demand.[80] The Right to Buy is the main cause of the decline in the number of social rented homes in England.[81] Residents also expressed concern that the migration of people from inner-London boroughs had contributed to house price rises in the area.[82] The House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs concluded that net immigration is one factor that contributes towards higher house prices.[83]

Other local service pressures

37.  Migration can cause particular pressures on other local services such as the police and the NHS. The West Norfolk Partnership, the local strategic partnership for the borough, reported pressures on hospital services. It stated that maternity services were under pressure from the increase in the young migrant population. It also reported that Accident and Emergency services were seeing an increased demand from migrants without documentation, who are able to access treatment that they would be unable to obtain through GP services.[84] However, in contrast to this evidence, the Audit Commission suggests that demand for health services is lower among migrants than local communities, because they are generally young and healthy.[85] The IPPR stated that the majority of A8 migrants tended to place less of a burden on healthcare and adult social care than the local population, though it acknowledged that these younger groups of migrants tended to be relatively greater users of specific services, such as sexual health and maternity services.[86]

38.  During our visits we learnt from the local police about the effects of migration on the prevalence of different types of crime. In Peterborough, certain types of crime were seen as increasing as a consequence of migration: these included the growing of cannabis, the trafficking of Eastern European women and girls, drink-driving and knife crime.[87] In Barking and Dagenham, white-on-white crime between different nationalities and ethnic groups was the most significant race issue for the police.[88] In Burnley, the prevalence of forced marriages was an issue of particular concern.[89] The effect of migration on crime levels is debated—it has been argued, sometimes on the basis of the same evidence, that migration leads to increased crime and that it does not. Peter Fayh, co-author of an Association of Police Chiefs (ACPO) recent paper on the subject, said "the influx of eastern Europeans has created pressures on forces in some areas" but also stated that "the evidence does not support theories of a large scale crime wave generated through migration".[90] Professor Cantle told us that migrants are "more often victims of crime than perpetrators".[91] Our evidence suggests the types of crime committed in areas experiencing migration is influenced by changing profile of the people living in the area. This requires the police to adapt to the changing local need. For example, in Peterborough we met Petr Torak, a Roma Gypsy originally from the Czech Republic who works as a Police Community Support Officer.[92] He is fluent in five languages, which helps him to resolve tensions with migrants.

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

64   Ev 120, 131, 140,162. Back

65   The Audit Commission, Crossing borders-Responding to the local challenges of migrant workers, January 2007. Back

66   Annex  Back

67   Ev 120, 131, 147. Back

68   These figures are not an exact comparison as the 2002 data use key stages as the basis for estimates. Department for Education and Skills, Statistics of Education: Pupil Progress by Pupil Characteristics 2002, June 2003, para 80. See also Department for Children, Schools and Families, Statistical First Release, Pupil Characteristics and Class sizes in maintained schools in England, January 2008, published 29 April 2008, Back

69   Ev 150 Back

70   Ev 131, 150. Back

71   Ev 118, 131. Back

72   Ev 120. See also House of Lords, The Economic Impact of Immigration, First Report of the Select Committee on Economic Affairs, Session 2007-08, HL Paper 82, para 142. Back

73   Q 12 Back

74   Annex  Back

75   Annex Back

76   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

77   Ev 76 Back

78   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

79   Communities and Local Government Committee, Eighth Report of Session 2007-08, The Supply of Rented Housing, HC 457, para 5. Back

80   Annex  Back

81   Communities and Local Government Committee, Eighth Report of Session 2007-08, The Supply of Rented Housing, HC 457, para 5. Back

82   Annex  Back

83   House of Lords, The Economic Impact of Immigration, First Report of the Select Committee on Economic Affairs, Session 2007-08, HL Paper 82, para 172. Back

84   Ev 163 Back

85   The Audit Commission, Crossing borders-Responding to the local challenges of migrant workers, January 2007. Back

86   Ev 120 Back

87   Annex  Back

88   Annex  Back

89   Annex  Back

90   ACPO, "Comment on migration and policing", press release issued 16 April 2008, Back

91   Q 68 Back

92   Annex. See also "Roma gipsy who fled Czech Republic is the new face of British policing", Mail Online, 5 April 2008, Back

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