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By Ian Dipple Friday 10 January 2014 Updated: 10/01 10:05
THERE is little evidence Redditch will be overwhelmed by immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria according to council chiefs.
And political leaders in the borough have branded claims of a surge in people coming to the town from the two countries following the end of restrictions on their movement throughout the EU as ‘scaremongering’.
Previously Romanian and Bulgarian nationals were only allowed to work in the UK with a permit but that arrangement came to an end on New Year’s Day.
It has led to speculation Britain will face a wave of immigration similar to that seen post-2004 when the freedom of movement was extended to several countries in Eastern Europe including Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia, putting extra pressure on the NHS, jobs and housing. There are believed to be 287 Romanians living in Worcestershire with about 23 in Redditch.
Figures from the 2011 Census show more than 1,200 people from Eastern Europe, predominantly from Poland, settled in Redditch between 2004 to 2006 with another 833 in the following three years before the figure fell to 291 between 2010 and 2011, although the figures do not show how many have since left Redditch.
But Kevin Dicks, chief executive of Redditch Borough Council, said there was no suggestion history would repeat itself.
“There is little evidence to suggest the lifting of restrictions on those nations that became full EU members seven years ago will have a significant effect in Redditch. We have not therefore made special provision for our services and we continue to monitor the situation.”
Borough Council leader Bill Hartnett added the world was a different place from 2004 when the economy was booming and Britain was one of just two countries to end restrictions whereas this time there was much greater choice for those considering relocating.
“It’s been hyped up and talked up but the evidence just isn’t there and we can see that from the first few days,” he said.
“We have a diverse community in Redditch from all parts of the globe and we have been celebrating that for a long time.”
Redditch MP Karen Lumley said there had been too much scaremongering around the immigration debate.
“The Polish people that came here work really hard and don’t depend on the state,” she said.
“If you went down to the Alex Hospital today you would see loads of people from EU countries and I wouldn’t want them to have to go back because they are providing a service for the people of Redditch.
“We need to be careful we are not playing to a massive right wing agenda, which I don’t want to be part of.”
Simon Hairsnape, chief officer for Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG, said the projected population increase related to migration was relatively small and most new residents were young and placed limited demands on the NHS.
“There is also some evidence recent migrants to England seem to use hospitals less, and this might be because healthier people are more likely to be physically capable to move and find work.”
He added there would be some impact in terms of the cost of interpretation and translation services but that had been planned for.
But Peter Bridle, chairman of the Redditch branch of UKIP, denied they were wrong to call for an end to the current open door immigration policy, which encouraged unwanted individuals tempted by free medical care, housing and financial benefits.
“UKIP supports reasonable, sensible and flexible entry controls for all potential immigrants. That is not scaremongering. We welcome citizens of other countries who have the skills our industries and services need and who come with a desire to work hard, pay taxes, speak English and have a desire to belong to our communities.”
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