UK councils want extra money for migrant influx

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LONDON, Nov 1 (Reuters) Local authorities called today for a fresh approach to calculating the number of migrant workers in Britain, saying official statistics significantly underestimated the level.

They asked the government for a 250 million pound fund to bail out councils hit by the unbudgeted cost of providing services for the extra workers, many from eastern Europe.

The appeal comes after ministers admitted this week that 1.1 million foreign nationals had come to work in Britain in the last 10 years, far more than the 800,000 it had said previously.

Immigration has become a hot political issue over concerns that rapid migration has undercut British-born workers, as well as putting a strain on public services.

Many councils -- with budgets partly set according to the size of local population -- are out of pocket, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.

Westminster City Council, in the heart of London, said at least 24,000 residents had been missed by official estimates, equivalent to a 12 million pound annual funding shortfall.

''Official statistics on how many migrants are coming and where they are going are inadequate,'' said LGA Chairman Simon Milton.

''No-one has a real grasp of where or for how long migrants are settling so much needed funding for local services isn't getting to the right places.'' He said the government should look at additional sources of information such as registrations with family doctors, new National Insurance Numbers and school census data.

A report commissioned by the LGA found that migrant workers were benefiting Britain by 40 billion pounds a year, but that insufficient funding in some areas was leading to strains on local health services, housing and schools.

The government on Tuesday said it would prolong curbs on Bulgarians and Romanians looking for jobs in the country, in response to concerns over the pressure on public services.

Britain was the only big European Union country to let citizens of new member states work without restriction when the bloc added 10 mainly Eastern European members in 2004.

Reuters BJR VP0655

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