Headlines: February 5th, 2008

A local government think tank has welcomed Government proposals to give councils more support in tackling the changes brought about by movements in local populations. The plans were unveiled in the response by Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears to last summer’s report of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion.

Hilary Kitchin, policy analyst at the Local Government Information Unit, said the response was timely and contained a number of important initiatives and showed the Government had taken up many of the current concerns of local authorities. “It will be important that councils are able to tailor solutions to local circumstances,” she said.

Hazel Blears set out plans that would see support from central government to help local councils respond to the changes in their areas, including the creation of specialist cohesion teams that would be available to advise authorities on managing migration. “As a government we have a role in ensuring that the diversity which is a real strength of this country is successfully managed and doesn’t lead to problems in the way that people live and get along together,” she said.

In addition to the cohesion teams the proposals include local authority twinning and new guidance to councils on the development of Information Packs for migrants. The guidance aims to illustrate the information local authorities could include such as details on how to access English language classes, waste and recycling services and employment services, practical information on rights and responsibilities including national laws and rules around paying taxes.

Hazel Blears added,“Our response to the work of the Commission emphasises the importance of local actions. It is at the local level that changes are felt most keenly. But we are also clear that strong direction from Government is needed if we are going to make managing those changes easier. We are providing the resources and support that will help local authorities promote integration between new and settled communities and manage the impact of population change.”