Tuesday, January 29, 2008

British police chief: `migrant tide adds to crime'

One of Britain's leading police chiefs has warned Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, that his force is struggling to cope with "migration surges" that are leading to increased crime. In a leaked private letter, Mike Fuller, the chief constable of Kent, tells Smith the government's failure to provide extra funds to match the influx of immigrants will have a "negative impact on performance".

Fuller, Britain's most senior black police officer, also warns the soaring cost of translation services is placing a strain on resources. He says he will need more than 500 extra constables if the population increase caused by immigration continues.

The warning will embarrass the government. Last night the Labour-dominated home affairs committee promised to investigate Fuller's complaints that government funding has failed to take into account "surges" in arrivals from overseas. In his letter to Smith dated October 22 last year, the police chief states: "I feel it is essential that I set out the impact that population growth is having in Kent and the pressure it is placing on finite resources."

Fuller estimates 78% of the population growth is accounted for by migration. This has contributed to a rise of more than a third in violent crimes over five years to about 7,800 incidents last year. He estimates the total additional cost to the force to be 34 million pounds over the past three years, but claims increases in funding from the Home Office have failed to keep pace.

Fuller, Britain's first black chief constable, is regarded as a high-flyer. He recently qualified as a barrister, training in his spare time, and has been tipped as a future Metropolitan police commissioner. In his letter he warns that government predictions about immigration and population growth have proved unreliable. He concludes: "There is a danger that if the future funding regime fails to respond to dynamic changes in migration the extra demand this generates will impact negatively on performance."

Fuller says translation services account for an increasing proportion of his budget, with costs having risen by a third over the past three years. According to Fuller, the total population of Kent is forecast to rise from 1.6m now to 1.9m in 2029. Most of this increase will be a result of immigration. He says that if these predictions are correct, he will need an extra 561 constables.

He also warns that Kent suffers special problems policing the ferry ports and Channel tunnel. "As the gateway to Europe, Kent has unique geographical status which places additional strain on limited resources." Fuller is not the first police chief to complain that government funding is failing to take account of rising immigration. Julie Spence, of Cambridgeshire police, warned last year that new arrivals, often from eastern Europe, had left her force struggling to deal with certain offences including knife crime and drink driving. She said immigrant communities had "different standards" from the UK.

When asked last month about Kent, ministers claimed no assessment had been made of the impact of immigration on costs. In a parliamentary answer, Tony NcNulty, the police minister, said: "Kent police do not separately identify costs incurred as a result of immigration."

Damian Green, Conservative immigration spokesman, said ministers had misled the public: "This is clear evidence that all over the country public services have found it impossible to cope with the unplanned and rapid rise in population over the past few years. "This is another largely rural police force which is having to spend money on translation services and cope with extra pressures caused by fast rates of immigration. Without properly controlled immigration this problem will only get worse."

Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the home affairs committee, said: "Mike Fuller raises very important issues concerned with the changing needs of local areas as a result of migration. It is important that in looking at funding formulas the government understands that there are pressures that need to be addressed. We will be looking at this issues when we launch our forthcoming inquiry into policing." A Home Office spokesman said: "We will consider any evidence provided by the police."



One in six British households is living in fuel poverty, the highest for almost a decade, according to new figures that threaten the government's target to eradicate the problem in England by the end of the decade.

Fuel poverty is defined as when a household spends more than a tenth of its income on utility bills. The consumer group Energywatch said yesterday there are now about 4.4 million of these in the UK, with just over 3 million in England alone.

Charities and other groups, led by the Association for the Conservation of Energy, are preparing a legal challenge in the next few weeks to force the government to meet the 2010 target, to which it is committed by law.

The figures came at the end of a week in which the UK's largest energy supplier, British Gas, said it was increasing bills by 15 per cent. This month EDF Energy and Npower raised prices by up to 27 per cent, and two-thirds of British households will have to pay higher tariffs. Other suppliers are likely to follow suit soon.


SEVEN new British data blunders: "The Department of Health (DoH) has written to senior NHS managers to remind them to handle data safely, it said today, as it was reported there have been seven new breaches of security involving patient details. Today's edition of The Sun said that in one incident the confidential records of more than 1.7 million patients were lost, while in another a medic Googled a doctor's name and was linked to patients' details. In the first incident, records of patients from the North East Essex region were on a tape that was mislaid by a courier firm, while the second took place in the North West Strategic Health Authority, the newspaper said." [No wonder a national ID card has been put on hold!]

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