Funding Row Re-Opens Immigration Debate

Funding row reopens immigration debate

By Tim Castle
Thu Nov 1, 2007 2:41pm GMT

LONDON (Reuters) – The government faced new attacks over immigration on Thursday after local councils demanded more money to pay for services for thousands of migrant workers missed in official counts.

The Local Government Association (LGA), representing more than 400 local councils, called for a 250 million pound a year contingency fund to help areas facing high rates of migration.

Saying official statistics significantly underestimated the number of migrants in many areas, the association called for a fresh approach to calculating numbers.

The report fuelled an uproar over immigration which broke out this week when the government admitted it had underestimated the number of foreign nationals who had come to work in Britain in the last decade by 300,000 — the size of a medium-size city such as Coventry. The new estimate is 1.1 million.

“I think the whole shambles over immigration this week just shows why we need a new government. It's not that they've got no vision. It's just that they are also completely incompetent,” Conservative leader David Cameron told the BBC.

He repeated his call for a limit on migration from outside the EU. “I'd like to see the overall level of net immigration into the UK be substantially lower than the roughly 200,000 a year we see today,” he said.

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants have come to Britain in the last few years, many from east European countries that recently joined the European Union. The LGA said this had put a strain on public services in parts of Britain, affecting housing, health, education and translation services.

Central government gives city councils part of the money to pay for services based on population estimates for the area.