Select Committee on Communities and Local Government Committee Tenth Report

Conclusions and recommendations

Effect of migration on community cohesion

1.  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). (Paragraph 16)

2.  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. In areas where migrants tend to live in HMOs, public concern about migration can be reduced if the problems of HMOs are tackled. (Paragraph 21)

3.  The rapid pace of change experienced by many communities has led to increased local public concern about migration and can negatively affect community cohesion. (Paragraph 24)

4.  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. (Paragraph 28)

Pressures on local public services

5.  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. (Paragraph 35)

6.  Tensions between groups caused by issues of access to housing are undoubtedly exacerbated by the acute shortage of social and affordable housing in England. (Paragraph 36)

7.  In order to respond to migration effectively, it is critical that local authorities do all they can to improve their local intelligence on current and future migration flows and plan ahead. (Paragraph 42)

8.  Local authorities need to have transparent decision-making, including in relation to decisions on the allocation of social housing. Councils also must communicate effectively with their local communities to prevent myths about migrants arising and spreading. (Paragraph 46)

9.   Local authorities need to take the lead in countering local myths on migrants. We see no necessity for a national rapid rebuttal unit, but recommend that central Government share best practice on myth-busting and communication strategies. (Paragraph 48)

10.  Local authorities need the freedom to develop local responses to migration; a one-size-fits-all solution is not appropriate. The Government should encourage local authorities to learn from each other, particularly where there are examples of innovative solutions to migration, such as establishing educational assessment centres and local welcome centres for new arrivals. (Paragraph 54)

11.  We recommend that the Government monitor the extend to which schools are more ethnically segregated than the communities they serve. (Paragraph 58)

12.  Integration should not be forced; rather, opportunities to promote sustained and meaningful interaction between people from different backgrounds should be encouraged, for example through encouraging participation in community groups around issues of common concern. (Paragraph 59)

13.  To promote cohesion effectively, all activity that promotes contact between people of different backgrounds should reach out as widely as possible to people who are not normally involved in community initiatives. (Paragraph 61)

14.  Community groups, such as residents' associations, have an important role in promoting community cohesion and participation in community life. Local authorities should encourage community groups to involve migrants in their organisations. (Paragraph 63)

15.  We recommend that the Government ensure that its work on community empowerment, and the development of a Community Empowerment Bill, include measures to encourage the participation of migrants in civic life. (Paragraph 64)

16.  Funders should expect community groups to look for opportunities to maximise interaction between people of different backgrounds. Where funding is granted to single identity groups, the criteria against which funding is awarded need to be clearly publicised to all communities in the local area. (Paragraph 68)

17.  We welcome the inclusion of community cohesion within the Comprehensive Area Assessment. This will be useful in encouraging local authorities actively to promote community cohesion and respond to migration, particularly in areas where there are tensions. (Paragraph 70)

Responding to migration nationally

18.  We agree with the Government's conclusion [on the establishment of a new national body with responsibility for the integration of migrants]. We did not hear sufficient evidence to convince us that a new body is necessary at this time, and we find persuasive the Government's analysis that establishing a new body could risk duplicating the work of existing bodies and prove costly. Instead, we recommend that all bodies with responsibility for the integration of migrants take further concerted steps to ensure that they are working together to follow a common strategic approach to the task. We also recommend that the Government review the case for further rationalisation of existing structures on migration and cohesion when it reports in early 2009 on its progress in implementing the actions set out in its report Managing the Impacts of Migration: A Cross-Government Approach. (Paragraph 76)

19.  If the Government decides to introduce a single national 'Migration Integration Strategy,' it must not take a one-size-fits-all approach. Central Government should not dictate to local authorities what practice should be adopted locally. Rather, the role of central government should be to set a national policy framework for action on integration and community cohesion, and provide guidance and support to others, particularly local government. (Paragraph 78)

20.  We welcome the Government's increased activity on community cohesion and migration. As much of this activity is new, we recommend that the Government review the overall effectiveness of its activities in response to the Commission on Integration and Cohesion in 2009. (Paragraph 80)

21.  We welcome the EHRC's intention to convene regular forums for employers and employees on integration and cohesion. In addition, we call on the EHRC to encourage and support employers in taking action to integrate their migrant employees into local communities. (Paragraph 83)

22.  The effect of migration on community cohesion should be central to decisions on migration policy. We recommend that the Government closely monitor the effects of the new points-based system on community cohesion and publish regular evaluations of its findings, starting next year. (Paragraph 86)

23.  We welcome the Government's recent publication Managing the Impacts of Migration: A Cross-Government Approach. Success in achieving a joined-up approach on community cohesion and migration depends on the leadership and influence of CLG. The publication of the migration plan is a promising development: the Government now needs to build on that plan to ensure that all its departments, and their respective policies, take account of and prioritise community cohesion in their day-to-day work. (Paragraph 87)

24.  The long-term nature of work to promote community cohesion and the integration of migrants should not be a barrier to, or an excuse for lack of, effective evaluation. The spread of best practice on community cohesion and integration is meaningless without a shared understanding of the actual effectiveness of different initiatives. We recommend that the Government develop and disseminate guidance on the evaluation of community cohesion and migration initiatives. (Paragraph 90)

25.  We recognise that there are finite resources for free English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision. Nevertheless, we are concerned about the effect of the Government's restrictions on access to free ESOL provision on community cohesion. We are also concerned about the absence of national data on the type of learners who access tuition and levels of unmet demand. Given the Government's stated priority to encourage the speaking of English to promote integration, the absence of data is a major flaw. We recommend that the Government take immediate action to collate these national data, which will enable an assessment to be made of the effectiveness of ESOL provision in promoting integration. We further recommend that, in light of these data, the Government review ESOL provision. This review should include considering the case for removing the requirement for spouses to be resident in the UK for 12 months before they are eligible for free ESOL provision. (Paragraph 98)

26.  We are not convinced that compulsory measures to make employers pay towards the cost of English language provision are needed. We do, however, consider that the Government is right to encourage employers to pay more. We recommend that the Government examine the case for introducing financial incentives, including through the taxation system, to encourage employers to pay more towards the provision of English language tuition for their employees. (Paragraph 103)

27.  Speaking English is vital for participation in community life, not just vital in the workplace. It is important that the Government's current emphasis on employers paying for ESOL does not detract from the need to ensure that English classes are available to all those in greatest need, including in particular Asian women in settled communities. (Paragraph 104)

28.  The Government's emphasis on targeting free ESOL provision at long-term migrants is right. However, there is still a need for short-term migrants to integrate for community cohesion, and learning English is an important means to integration. Although it may not be the primary responsibility of the state to pay for short-term migrants to learn English, it is the role of Government to encourage short-term migrants to learn English, for the sake of settled communities that are experiencing this type of migration, as well as for the sake of the migrants themselves. (Paragraph 107)

29.  We recommend that the Government's guidance to local authorities on migration and cohesion take into account that many overseas migrants are not here to stay long term, which presents increasing challenges for achieving integration. (Paragraph 108)

Government funding

30.  It is of vital importance for effective service delivery and community cohesion that funding for local services adequately take into account the number of migrants. (Paragraph 112)

31.  We recommend that Government urgently prioritise work to incorporate the use of alternative administrative data into local population estimates. (Paragraph 116)

32.  We are not convinced that the Government's recently announced transitional fund will provide sufficient income to fund local public services under pressure from migration. We recommend that the Government immediately establish a contingency fund capable of responding effectively to the additional pressures which may be put on local government services from migration. The Government should work closely with the local government sector to develop appropriate funding criteria. (Paragraph 126)

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