Councils To Tackle Monitoring Of Migrants

Local councils are to carry out their own census-style checks on immigrant numbers because of glaring underestimates in official figures. The councils, particularly in the South East, say that they do not get enough central government help with local services because the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is incapable of providing correct numbers.

Because local immigrant populations are higher than the official estimates, Whitehall grants do not meet demands for housing, transport and other services and the councils are left struggling.

The ONS is updating its methods but the councils say it still wildly underestimates arrivals, particularly those from European Union accession countries.

Colin Barrow, the deputy leader and cabinet member for finance at Westminster Council, said the only option was for his local authority to do the work itself. “By speaking to local community groups and focussing around those ports of entry, such as Victoria Coach Station, we hope to show the numbers of migrants coming into Westminster on a weekly basis,” he said.

“We are so concerned that these official statistics still do not properly count those coming in to the UK that we will be commissioning our own independent polls. “This will give a more accurate picture of the situation on the streets in central London.”

Slough Council, which welcomes immigrant labour into its thriving local economy, nevertheless believes it is losing out because of ONS underestimates. According to the ONS, Slough’s population has declined by 4,000 – or 3.3 per cent – since 2001. The most recent official estimates put the total at 117,600. However the council’s own estimate puts the population at between 125,000 and 130,000, To address the problem, Slough has started its own research into migrant numbers and has asked the Government to make a contribution to its costs.

ONS figures have also been at odds with statistics circulating within government. Earlier this month, the ONS suggested that 56,000 Poles entered the country in 2005. However, the Department for Work and Pensions produced its own statistics showing that more than 170,000 Poles had applied for national insurance numbers in the same year.

Sir Robin Wales, mayor of Newham in east London, said migration was “great” but needed to be “properly funded”. His council would be willing to pay for a census to correct figures. The cost of doing the work would be high but still less than the financial loss to the council resulting from the inaccurate figures.