Chancellor should ensure more money for a fairer deal on migration
Yesterday the TUC released a report calling on the Chancellor to use the Autumn Financial Statement on Wednesday to significantly increase the amount going to a Migration Impacts Fund so that areas that have experienced industrial decline, cuts to services and significant recent increases in migration receive additional funds.
The TUC is calling for a significantly expanded Migration Impacts Fund to address concerns about migration and ensure the benefits of migration are fairly distributed.
EU migrants pay significantly more in taxes than is spent on them and contribute a great amount to our economy and society, helping to keep our public services running, working in key industries, and as our friends, neighbours, and workmates.
Given the £2 billion annual economic contribution EU migrants make to the economy nationally, it’s difficult to see how Amber Rudd could justify her announcement that the government will only give £25 million a year to local areas as part of their so called ‘Controlling Migration Fund’ in October. Our proposals, on the contrary, build on the Migration Impacts Fund established by the previous Labour government and abolished in 2010 as part of the coalition government cuts.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“The government’s fund is little more than ministerial spare change. It is simply too small to make a difference…It’s only fair that communities across England get to feel the benefits of that extra cash through a properly-resourced Migration Impacts Fund.”
Research by Matthew Godwin and Oliver Heath shows that areas like Boston and Thurrock, which voted strongly to leave the EU and where concern about immigration is high, have a low migrant population compared to cities like London or Manchester. However they have experienced relatively high levels of migration in the past ten years. While migrant workers in these areas contributed to taxes (and company profits), local people did not benefit from these contributions. Rather they have seen cuts to their local services and a growth in precarious employment. These areas now have some of the highest poverty rates in the country.
How to spend the Migration Impacts Fund
- Fairer funding of public services
Cuts to government spending mean that schools, hospitals and other public services are all under pressure across the UK. Local councils have had budgets cut by 37 per cent since 2010 and, with revenue support grant cut even further in the last Spending Review, the LGA estimates that local government will be facing a total funding gap of nearly £6 billion by the end of this parliament.
The Migration Impacts Fund should support funding for health, education and other frontline public services in areas that have experienced significant cuts to these services and recent increases in the migrant population to ensure decent services for both the settled population and new arrivals.
2. Supporting adult skills and decent jobs
Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Resolution Foundation indicates that low levels of skill were the strongest determinant of the Leave vote in the referendum in these former industrial areas. Anxiety about migration has grown in communities where skill levels in the local labour market are not high, and so workers find themselves competing for low skill jobs with migrant workers.
The Migration Impacts Fund should stimulate better jobs and support training for both adults and young people, linked to where there are local skills gaps.
3. Support housebuilding and tackle rogue landlords
The UK continues to be in the grip of a housing crisis – which manifests in terms of accessibility, affordability and inadequate conditions. In areas of population growth, housing problems are more acute, compounded by rogue landlords who exploit recent migrants as well as other vulnerable tenants by putting them in overcrowded and sometimes unsafe accommodation
The Migration Impacts Fund should enable local councils to re-employ inspectors to ensure that all rented properties meet legal standards, and adopt an active enforcement policy against rogue landlords.
4. Enforcement employment rights and support unions to tackle exploitation
The lack of trade union recognition in such sectors means that workers often lack the power to resist low pay or poor conditions. The fact that there is also inadequate enforcement by government agencies of employment regulations – such as those around the National Minimum Wage – has meant too many employers have been able to use migrants (and other vulnerable workers such as young people) to undercut other workers.
The Migration Impacts Fund should assist in enforcement of employment rights and prevent undercutting, supporting unions and advice agencies to protect rights and ensure that migrant workers can claim their rights at work.
5. Language training
A common language is essential for ensuring workforce integration – by having a common language, workers are able to understand each other better and come together to bargain for decent conditions at work through their trade union.
The Migration Impacts Fund should provide significant additional funding for language training.
6. Building stronger communities
It is important that the Migration Impacts Fund involve local community groups including local councillors, trade unions, chambers of commerce, churches and community and tenants’ associations. These bodies should receive some of the funds as well as local authorities.
The Migration Impacts Fund should also provide funds for community events that bring people from different backgrounds together.