Headlines: January 7th, 2008

The Local Government Association is stressing the need for councils to work with the Government and local partners to improve relations between all groups of people living in any area. The LGA was responding to the newly-launched consultation on proposals for priority to be given to community cohestion in the provision of teaching English as a second language. Hazel Harding, who chairs the LGA’s Safer Communities Board, said it was important that people who had made a long term commitment to living in Britain should benefit from resources to learn the language and she added, “It is important that councils work with government and other local partners to help improve relations between all groups of people living in the local area.”

Councillor Harding said, though, that Government also had to recognise the need for English language training for economic migrants. “The Government recently announced that councils should rely less on translation in order to encourage people to learn the language, therefore it is essential that English is taught as a second language to help new arrivals. The 40 billion pounds a year that migrants bring into the country risks being jeopardised if they are not taught English properly,” she said.

The LGA believes language should not be a barrier to anyone contributing to the country’s economy or to accessing the vital services provided by councils. For example, it said, those arriving from other countries needed to know how to register with a doctor, get housing advice or find out how to enrol children at school.

The LGA-commissioned report ‘Estimating the Scale and Impacts of Migration at the local level’ looked at the provision of adult education and ESOL and found there was concern across the country about the funding of language training. It revealed that demand was greater than supply but many councils and other bodies saw the provision of teaching as a solution to better community relations.