Headlines: October 25th, 2007

Shortcomings in the way that population figures are estimated are causing problems for local councils, according to the Chairman of the Local Government Association, Sir Simon Milton. Speaking after the Office for National Statistics predicted the UK population would reach 65 million by 2016, Sir Simon said official figures on the number of migrants were ‘woefully inadequate.’

The ONS has said almost half of the forecast 4.4 million increase in population over the next decade can be put down to immigration. It has also produced further projections suggesting the overall population will reach 71 million people by 2031 and 77 million 20 years later.

In response to the statistics Sir Simon said Britain was benefiting from migration, which was generating more than 40 billion pounds a year. “The evidence shows that industries such as fruit picking and residential care would risk collapse without migrant labour,” he said but added, “The problem is that the money generated isn’t finding its way back down to the local level. Official statistics on how many migrants are coming and where they are going are woefully inadequate.”

He said nobody had a real grasp on where migrants were settling so that much-needed funding for services could go to those areas. He continued, “The shortcomings of official population figures is placing pressure on services like education and housing and can even lead to unnecessary tension and conflict.”

The LGA believes there should be greater use of alternative sources of population information such as GP registrations and National Insurance numbers to create a package of measurements that would give the Government a more accurate picture of migrant movements. “’Allowing councils to raise more money and a more decentralised way of counting population would also help to ensure the right money gets to the right places,” he added.