East Midlands councils warn on migrant pressures

A Boston street Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Boston has the highest proportion of residents born in EU accession countries

Wholesale changes to how local councils cope with an influx of foreign migrants coming into the East Midlands are being urged in a new report.

It wants more funding to help migrants return to their country of origin and more English language classes for migrants. It also warns of increasing racial prejudice.

This is the most comprehensive study of the impact of immigration on the East Midlands of recent years.

Commissioned by East Midlands Councils, the body that speaks up for town halls, it said the impact of international migration is generally positive.

But there are, what it calls, "particular challenges" for some communities in the main cities in the East Midlands and Boston in Lincolnshire.

It said there is not enough detailed local information or data on migration.

It wants the NHS to routinely record patient ethnicity and country of origin. The police to do the same for victims and perpetrators of crime.

"In order to better understand the dynamic nature of migrant populations at a local level, there is a clear need for better quality and access to official local data," the report said.

Many of its statistics though are eye-catching.

According to the last census, 448,000 (10%) of the region's population were foreign born. But that figure increases in the cities: Leicester is 34%, Nottingham 20% and Derby at 14%. South Derbyshire at 3.3% has the lowest percentage in the East Midlands.

Leicester also has the highest proportion of residents born outside the EU, largely from India.

'Racial prejudice'

Contrast that with 11% in Boston. The Lincolnshire town has the highest proportion of residents born in EU accession countries, such as Poland and the Baltic states.

Its non-UK population grew by 8,063 over a decade, the figure representing a staggering increase of 457%.

According to the most recent census, 2% of the region's population, that's 92,000, were born in the EU accession countries of eastern Europe.

On the economic impact, the report says there's no evidence to suggest migrants cause wages to be dampened. It also says migrants are 45% less likely to receive state benefits, compared to the rest of the UK population.

But it also highlights findings that show racial prejudice was higher in the East and West Midlands than anywhere else in Britain.

The report said: "The East Midlands was the second highest region for people self-reporting racial prejudice at 33%, behind only the West Midlands at 35%.

"In contrast, the figure for inner London was 16%."

Councillor Jon Collins, chairman of East Midlands Councils, is also leader of Nottingham City Council.

"The impact of international migration is a controversial and politically contested issue," he said.

"But we need to talk about it. The lack of an informed debate within Parliament, the media and public at large has been very damaging.

"This report seeks to 'shine a light' on the issues from an East Midlands perspective. We hope that it will be used positively to improve policy and practice at national and local levels."

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