Row Blows up over Migrant Numbers

Council say new figures underestimate inflow to local area

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Hammersmith and Fulham Council say that official population statistics underestimate the true number of migrants coming into the borough.

The council is concerned that it may miss out on future funding due to inaccurate statistics, which could affect schools, social services and other services.

The council has joined forces with Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Slough to demand action from the Treasury Minister John Healey. The coalition of councils has written a letter to the minister urging him not to use new figures from the Office for National Statistics, which suggest London's migrant population is 60,000 less than previously thought.

The councils have called for improvements to official statistics and have even offered to produce more accurate local figures. Councillor Stephen Greenhalgh, Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, said: "I didn't think it was possible but this new method for counting migration is actually worse than the old one - which was also a disaster.

"The government's new figures suggest that we have fewer migrants than three years ago, which is frankly inconceivable. The new methodology grossly underestimates the numbers of migrant workers in Hammersmith and Fulham and still does not account for those spending less than a year in the country.
"In Hammersmith and Fulham we know National Insurance registrations among A8 accession state nationals - Poland and other Eastern European countries - are up by more than 550 per cent and that's before other migrants are counted."

Sir Simon Milton, Leader of Westminster City Council said the council had anecdotal evidence to suggest over 2,000 migrants are coming though Victoria Coach station on a weekly basis.

He added that this statistic tallied with the Department for Work and Pensions' national insurance figures, as well as those from Home Office's Worker Registration Scheme. The numbers of migrants living in Hammersmith and Fulham has soared since the UK's borders were opened to Eastern European countries in 2004. However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said its figures - first published last month - were "a real and valuable improvement".

It said migration had added 336,000 to the population of London between 2002 and 2005, and that even though this figure was 60,000 down on previous estimates, "the trend over time remains upwards".

May 15, 2007