As with previous Budgets from this Government, the measures outlined in this one will do nothing to reassure my constituents who are facing such financial difficulties. The cuts to local authority budgets, whether £169 million from Camden’s budget or £164 million from Brent’s budget, are resulting in the closure of police stations, fire stations and jobcentres in the most deprived parts of my constituency, as well as the closure of the children’s centres that are a lifeline for so many parents in my constituency. To top it all off, the roll-out of universal credit is coming. Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention also the financial difficulties that Brexit will bring to my constituency—a constituency that so thoroughly rejected the idea that we have to leave the European Union: 75% of my constituents voted to remain in the EU.
These issues will dominate life in Hampstead and Kilburn for everyone, but the financial difficulties that I have outlined will have the most profound effect on the people in my constituency who are refugees, asylum seekers, and from migrant communities. As anyone who knows my constituency will probably acknowledge, there is a lot of divided opinion among lots of people, with differences of opinion that constituents like to email and write to me about—but one thing on which many of us are united is that the Government’s economic policy on migration should be underpinned by tolerance and open-mindedness, and that we should be helping new communities who are coming into our constituencies and our country to settle.
That is why I was so deeply disappointed that in his speech on Monday the Chancellor did not talk about reinstating the migration impacts fund. Conservative Members have said a lot about what the Labour Government did, no doubt as set out by the Whips. Let me tell them that the Labour Government introduced the migration impacts fund, in response to councils’ requests for relief from pressures on public services. Better yet, the fund was self-financing. It was financed by non-EEA migrants, with a compulsory £50 levy applied to application fees. For me, it was a statement of intent from the Labour Government that we wanted to express our values by welcoming migrant communities to come to this country. But the coalition Government decided to cut this fund because they wanted to take urgent action to cut the deficit, and because it was
“not a priority funding stream”.
That was typical of this Government, because they cut it first and then faced the expensive consequences later. Disgracefully, the fund was scrapped, but the financial levy remained on those seeking to make a life in Britain—again, very indicative of the punitive economic approach this Government take to migration.
Obviously, however, the needs of the new communities that were coming in remained, and the Government decided to bring in a new scheme, but it was wholly inadequate. Last year, the Home Affairs Committee said that this scheme—the controlling migration fund—suggested that the Government had lost the argument on this topic and that its scope was not
“sufficient to address the…pressures…on local public services”.
This should come as no surprise. The successor scheme that was brought in so hastily by the Government is barely more generous than the migration impacts fund introduced in 2008, and it cannot conceivably be expected to meet the much larger demands on public services a decade later.
The underfunding of the CMF is compounded by the fact that the scheme is split into two, with around £40 million being spent on immigration enforcement, rather than where it should be going, on projects to ease the process of integration across the country. It should come as no surprise that a More United survey of 17,000 people found that the restoration of the initial migration impacts fund would improve trust in our country’s approach to migration.
This is an historic time for our country, and we need a shake-up of our migration policy. We need a Government who think about building resilience in local communities, so that when there is an influx of new migrants and new communities, there are the financial resources to meet the challenges adequately. I represent 22,000 EU nationals in my constituency, and I want to welcome more. I expect the Government to be making provisions in the Budget to ensure that we have the resilience in our communities to handle the influx of migrants who will ultimately bring so many benefits to our country.