Immigration policy: basis for building consensus Contents

6Action is needed to address the impact of immigration on local communities

103.In every National Conversation panel, there was considerable discussion about the impact of migration on public services and local communities. Many people identified pressure on public services as being their biggest concern about immigration—often referring to local services or housing issues. We also heard evidence of concerns about integration, community cohesion and hate crime. We heard convincing arguments that more needs to be done on integration, on public services and on local strategies. Greater consensus on immigration will only be possible with much stronger action to address these concerns about the impact of immigration.

Increased demand for public services

104.There is little empirical evidence on the impact of immigration per se on public services, not least because there is a lack of information on the nationality or country of birth of people who use public services, or on how recently people arrived in the UK.110 However, much of our evidence warned of challenges in areas which have seen rapid population growth but where public spending has failed to keep pace. The Migration Advisory Committee explain that “if public spending does not increase in response to a rise in migration, consumption of public services will rise and so, all else equal, the quality of those services will fall.”111

105.We also heard evidence of the role immigration plays in delivering public services—both through higher taxes raised from immigration and from the increasing dependence on migrant labour by many of our public service providers. For example, the Royal College of Nursing attested in written evidence to the significant contribution made by nursing staff from outside the UK to providing healthcare to local communities.112 They pointed out that between 2001 and 2012, the percentage share of non-UK nationals within the practising nursing workforce grew from 15% to 22%.113

106.British Future argue that where there is rapid or large scale migration there is a need for effective policy that addresses pressures on public services and housing.114 Professor Ford told us that it was often communities that experienced high levels of immigration who did not feel that they had gained from the economic benefits that immigration can deliver at a national level. He explained that “We know that public distrust in immigration is at least in part related to the fact that the pressures feel real and local, yet the benefits often feel distant and abstract”.115 Phoebe Griffith, Associate Director at the IPPR, told our predecessors that there had been a failure in public policy to help communities that faced high levels of immigration as a result of freedom of movement.116

107.We heard from Professor Ford that directly providing additional resources in “a rapid, responsive, transparent and high profile way” to communities that had experienced a large influx of migration could be a means of providing a link to any national benefits that are accrued; he summed it up as the Government saying, “The country is benefiting from these people coming in and so is your community because we are providing you with the resources to ensure that you can manage it to your benefit”.117 The response to regional need outlined by Professor Ford was also identified as one of the top priorities by those who attended the Citizens’ Assembly set up by UCL’s Constitution Unit.118

108.The regional responses as outlined by our witnesses are not new ideas. In 2009–10 the then Labour Government introduced a £35 million Migration Impacts Fund (MIF). The annual fund was designed to assist public service providers to deal with the transitional pressures of immigration. Critics of the scheme argued that the MIF was underfunded and lacked public recognition.119 It was scrapped by the Coalition Government who claimed it was ineffective. In the run-up to the 2015 General Election both the Labour and the Conservative parties pledged to introduce a new fund to address local pressures caused by migration. The Controlling Migration Fund for England (CMF) was introduced in the last Parliament.

109.Under the CMF, £25 million will be made available each year from 2016–17 to 2019–20 for projects that “will benefit an established resident community that has been adversely affected by high levels of immigration or that will support wider community cohesion and the integration of recent migrants”.120 Examples of such projects include funding to help councils address the problem of rogue landlords, homelessness and the number of teaching assistants. The Fund cannot be used to supplement or support the provision of public services such as healthcare, something many of those calling for the introduction of the fund argued was essential.121 The Government maintains that funding for mainstream services is already responsive to changes in population. The first payments from the CMF were made in July 2017 and included support for projects tackling rogue landlords who damage neighbourhoods with overcrowded properties, additional funding to boost the number of teaching assistants, and support for the provision of English language classes.122

110.It is imperative that the work of the Controlling Migration Fund (CMF) is visible and locally accountable if it is to overcome the perceived weaknesses of its predecessor scheme, the Migration Impacts Fund (MIF). We are unconvinced, however, that the scope of the CMF is sufficient to address the additional pressures that rapid increases in population as a result of immigration can place on local public services or that conventional channels of public spending are sufficiently responsive to such increased demands. We recommend that proper assessment is made of both the positive benefits and negative pressures of immigration on public services. This assessment should form part of the Annual Migration Report, and lead to recommendations for additional funding to be made explicitly available to local authorities where immigration has demonstrably led to an increased demand for public services. The Government should also guard against allowing immigration to be blamed for wider funding pressures on public services—including by challenging misinformation and ensuring appropriate funding for public services is in place.

111.Initial applications to the CMF show that the problem of rogue landlords letting overcrowded accommodation blights communities across the country. We do not believe the Controlling Migration Fund alone will be sufficient to tackle this problem. The Government should put in place, and actively enforce, much stronger regulation of houses of multiple occupation.


112.British Future report listening to “people talking about divided communities and neighbourhood decline where overcrowded properties are rented to transient groups of migrant workers” but also “about integration successes, for example of communities that come together to celebrate shared festivals.”123 Tension between resident communities and migrant populations appear most evident in those areas where new arrivals struggle to integrate, are temporary or lack certainty about their future. In many areas visited by British Future people were generally positive about integration in their local area but at the same time felt there should be more support for specific measures from local and national government. Common issues raised included concerns about private rental accommodation, the lack of availability of English language lessons and increased pressure on public services and housing.

113.The importance of measures to aid integration has risen up the political spectrum in recent years. We have already discussed the Government’s introduction of the Controlling Migration Fund which can fund projects to help integration. In 2016 Dame Louise Casey published her government-commissioned review into what could be done to boost opportunity and integration in the most isolated and deprived communities and last year saw the publication of important reports by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Integration.

English language lessons

114.Successive British Social Attitudes (BSA) surveys have shown widespread support for migrants to be committed to a British way of life, and that worries over the cultural impact of immigration overshadow concerns about the economy. Respondents to the 2014 BSA survey identified the ability to speak English as the most important quality for a migrant to have. During their events across the country British Future also found high levels of support for the provision of English language classes.

115.English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses are heavily oversubscribed but public funding for them has more than halved over the last seven years, from £203 million in 2009–10 to £90 million to 2015–16.124 The Mayor of Bedford told our predecessors that more funding for English lessons was one of the key things the Government could do to improve integration in his area.125 This was echoed in reports by the APPG on Social Integration and Dame Louise Casey’s review into opportunity and integration.126 The Government has made an extra £20 million available as part of an effort to tackle radicalisation and also points to funding available via the Controlling Migration Fund.127

116.We recommend that funding for English language courses should be separate from the Controlling Migration Fund and should be restored to previous levels. The ability to speak English has been identified in opinion surveys as a key factor in effective integration of migrants and we agree that it makes an essential contribution in this respect. We are concerned that the Controlling Migration Fund is currently being used to mitigate the impact of cuts in public funding for English-language training elsewhere in the system. Changing the source of funding for English language courses would allow more CMF funding to be used on projects of tangible benefit to resident populations, which may feel their concerns have so far been largely ignored at a national level.

Locally-led integration strategy

117.The responsibility to design and implement an integration strategy should not rest at national level alone. The Casey Review into opportunity and integration stressed the vital role that local authorities play in picking up and acting upon signs that integration is breaking down at the earliest stage.128 It noted that in Sheffield, for example, more than 6,000 people of Roma or Eastern European heritage were living predominantly in one ward. The resulting impact on schools had caused considerable problems for the local authority, as the number of EU national children had increased from 150 to 2,500 in five years.129 In their January 2017 report the APPG on Social Integration argued that local authorities should identify the biggest integration barriers in their area—be that the economic, civic or social dimension—and seek to prioritise them.130 The APPG called on the Government to require all local authorities to draw up and implement ‘Local Integration Action Plans’.

118.British Future’s submission to our inquiry also highlighted concerns that a lack of integration was leading to a breakdown in community cohesion. Participants in the National Conversation’s citizens’ panel in Gloucester, for example, expressed deep concerns about the anti-social behaviour of groups of young male migrants in one area and the lack of response from the council or police in addressing the problem. The Casey Review also drew attention to the rise in recorded incidents of hate crime.131 According to the most recent statistics, recorded incidents of hate crime in 2016–17 rose by 29% compared with the previous year, the largest percentage increase seen since the series began in 2011–12.132 The Casey Review urged local authorities to collect and act upon incidences of hate crime in local areas.

119.Efforts by proactive local authorities are essential to tackling at source the problems caused by a lack of integration. We support the recommendation of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration that local authorities should develop local integration strategies. On an annual basis, local authorities should report the economic, civic and social barriers to integration in their areas and make recommendations for action, including measures to tackle anti-social behaviour and hate crime. They should also be more proactive in tackling immigration myths in their areas to prevent prejudices from taking hold.

120.The findings and recommendations of local integration strategies should feed directly into the Annual Migration Report. The Government should develop a national integration strategy as part of its three-year migration plans, with the explicit goal of supporting local councils, to address the concerns they raise and following up the recommendations of the Casey Review.


121. Policies that try to discourage long-term settlement and focus instead on continuous temporary migration to fill skill gaps can lead to population churn in communities. For example, filling skills gaps with a series of temporary overseas workers can mean more new arrivals with less incentive to integrate than fewer people staying for longer or settling here. Under current rules, non-EU workers earning less than £35,000 are only able to stay for six years even if the skills gap they fill still remains, so they may end up being replaced by a new temporary overseas worker.

122.Phoebe Griffith, Associate Director for Migration, Integration and Communities at the IPPR, told our predecessors that she felt the Government’s current approach to immigration policy acted against integration. She suggested that “the balance has definitely tipped in favour of ensuring that people cannot settle in Britain, and therefore do not have a huge incentive to integrate.133

123.People are more likely to integrate if they are staying for longer. Greater churn of people is harder for community relations. The Government should ensure that immigration rules do not simply encourage higher levels of temporary migration at the expense of long term settlement and commitment to this country. It should review pathways to settlement and citizenship to encourage greater certainty for applicants and promote integration.

Local and regional impact

124.We have consistently heard that the concerns people had about immigration were primarily local and regional. The National Conversation, however, revealed that concerns often reflected local pressure points. Panellists in areas as diverse as Redbridge, Cambridge and Derry-Londonderry, which all face shortages in accommodation, were united in viewing the impact of population pressure on the competition for housing as the primary local concern. In other areas, such as Chesterfield and Gloucester, it was primarily the pressure on public services like schools, GP surgeries and hospitals which concerned local residents.

Regional immigration policy

125.We are aware of calls for the Home Office to apply different rules to different parts of the country or for the Government to allow the constituent parts of the United Kingdom more autonomy over immigration policy. In relation to Scotland, these calls are based not only on economic need but on demographic issues, including projected population increases that are much more dependent on inward migration, an increasing dependency ratio and the knock-on effect this would have on revenues generated by devolved taxes.134

126.Our predecessors heard from the SNP Scottish Government that it wants different post-Brexit immigration arrangements for Scotland. Those arrangements would include the continuation of freedom of movement and the flexibility to adapt non-EEA rules to Scotland, for example by reducing salary thresholds for spouses and Tier 2 workers and to introduce a post-study work visa.135 Others who have called for a differentiated system include the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Unison, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Scottish Parliament and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration.

127.Currently the only scope for different regional approaches is via the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) where the UK-wide SOL is supplemented by a separate shortage list for Scotland. However, the successful provision of expanded post-study work rights for international students in Scotland suggests that regional variations in migration policy have worked in the past. A number of recent publications have considered the issue of differentiated immigration rules in the UK and how these might be implemented, using comparisons with countries such as Canada and Australia where this already happens.136

128.Madeleine Sumption, the Director of Migration Observatory, explained to our predecessors that identifying regional need might be even more difficult than identifying industry-specific need, due to a lack of data. Professor Alan Manning, Chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, drew attention to the problem of regional migration once limits on workers’ restrictions expired.137 He explained: “It is possible that the area that wants permanent migrants ends up with only temporary migrants because they leave, and the area that really only wanted temporary migrants ends up with permanent migrants.”138 Evidence from Canada which has a regional system shows mixed results in regions retaining immigrants once regional specific restrictions lapse.

129.A recent survey by NatCen found that 63% of people polled in Scotland would like Scotland to keep the same rules on immigration as the rest of the UK.139 British Future found limited support for devolved immigration policy in its visits to Scotland with half of those it spoke to raising concerns over the ability of the Scottish government to manage its borders. However, the IPPR report that their studies in the northeast of England show that if regional migration could compensate for the significant regional imbalances in the UK economy, then people were more likely to be persuaded.140

130.To date, the Government has ruled out regional variation in any post-Brexit immigration arrangements on the grounds that it would add complexity and harm the integrity of the system. However, it has asked the Migration Advisory Committee to consider the regional distribution of migrants as part of the wider study it has commissioned on the role EU nationals play in the UK economy and society. Phoebe Griffith, Associate Director at the IPPR, and Lord Green, Chair of Migration Watch, told our predecessors that they considered regional variations to be a viable option, although Lord Green cautioned that such a system would need to be managed centrally to prevent immigration ‘running out of control’.141 The IPPR further suggest that by giving regions greater powers over immigration, local debates on immigration could become more constructive and “focused on people’s direct experiences and priorities and the local impacts and contributions of migrants, rather than abstract national arguments and statistics.” The IPPR argue that over time such a system could lead to a more consensual and less divisive debate over immigration.142

131.We note that much of the British public want a say over the volume and type of immigration in their own area, while recognising that different priorities exist in different parts of the country. However, it is also clear that any regionally-specific migration policy raises concerns about enforcement and public scepticism about whether it is workable and, as we set out earlier in this report, credibility on enforcement is a crucial part of building broader consensus on immigration. However, we note that the changes to entry and exit checks alongside the ‘hostile environment’ might make that enforcement easier for certain kinds of visas, for example making it harder for someone with a study visa for a university in Scotland to live or work in Wales.

132.A future immigration system needs to work effectively for all parts of the UK. It is helpful that the Government has included regional distribution in the work it has commissioned from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to examine the role EU nationals play in the UK economy and society. The MAC’s intention to engage with stakeholders across the UK as part of this work is welcome, and we look forward to reviewing its findings when they are published later this year. An assessment should also be made of what kinds of enforcement are possible on a regional basis. Until the MAC concludes its work and that assessment has been done, the Government should be open-minded to a future immigration system that allows for different regional approaches to immigration.

111 Migration Advisory Committee, Analysis of the impacts of migration, January 2012

112 Written evidence submitted by the Royal College of Nursing [IMM0085]

113 Written evidence submitted by the Royal College of Nursing [IMM0085]

115 Oral evidence taken on 31 October 2017, HC (2017–19) 500, Q36

116 Oral evidence taken on 24 January 2017, HC (2016–17) 864, Q25 [IPPR]

117 Oral evidence taken on 31 October 2017, HC (2017–19) 500, Q36

118 Oral evidence taken on 31 October 2017, HC (2017–19) 500, Q36

119 House of Commons Library briefing paper, A new ‘Controlling Migration Fund’ for the UK?, August 2016

121 House of Commons Library briefing paper, A new ‘Controlling Migration Fund’ for the UK?, August 2016

124 Times Education Supplement, ESOL funding falls by £100m, 23 January 2017; Independent, Migrants told to learn English upon entering UK face three year wait for lessons, 9 January 2017

125 Oral evidence taken on 2 February 2017, HC (2016–17) 864, Q160

130 All Party Parliamentary Group of Social Integration, Interim Report into integration of migrants, January 2017

133 Oral evidence taken on 24 January 2017, HC (2016–17) 864, Q37 [Phoebe Griffith]

134 See for example Scottish Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2016–17, Demography of Scotland and the implications for devolution, HC 82

135 Oral evidence taken on 2 March 2017, HC (2016–17) 864

136 Dr Eve Hepburn, Options for differentiating the UK’s immigration system, Research commissioned for the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relation Committee of the Scottish Parliament; IPPR, An immigration strategy for the UK: Six proposals to manage migration for economic success, 5 December 2017

137 Oral evidence taken on 24 January 2017, HC (2016–17) 864, Q96

138 Oral evidence taken on 24 January 2017, HC (2016–17) 864, Q97

141 Oral evidence taken on 24 January 2017, HC (2016–17) 864, Qq55-56

12 January 2018