A newly elected UKIP county councillor has announced plans to safeguard frontline services by cutting ‘wasteful’ expenditure on translators for Lincolnshire’s foreign speaking residents.
Coun Chris Pain, who took the seat for Burgh and Wainfleet at last Thursday’s Lincolnshire County Council election, believes immigrants should pay for the service themselves or learn English rather than burden the taxpayer.
“There are certain services you can’t cut but we don’t need to be spending thousands on translation services,” he said.
“We’ve got to be very studious across the whole range of council services and see if we are getting value for taxpayers’ money.”
With savings of £125 million to make, Coun Pain believes this could be one nonessential service to be cut towards that total.
Coun Pain had not been able to check the cost of such services before raising his suggestion.
But the Standard has since learnt that last financial year Lincolnshire County Council spent £49,500 on translation services, down from £55,000 over the previous 12 months.
That represents less than half of one hundredth of one per cent (0.0045) of the authority’s billion pound budget and just over a thirtieth of one per cent (0.036) of the savings required for this year.
The council’s executive director for performance and governance David O’Connor explained that translation was not carried out as a ‘matter of course’ but only when a language barrier prevents people from accessing a service - for example children’s services may use an interpreter for social worker visits.
“If we didn’t provide these services, we wouldn’t be performing our safeguarding duties to protect those residents who cannot protect themselves,” he said.
“It’s also important to ensure that we are understood by those who speak little or no English on legal matters like school appeal hearings and inclusion and attendance matters in education.”
While keen to ensure the service is maintained where necessary, Mr O’Connor also said the council was looking to reduce its expenditure by launching a new service whereby council employees who speak a foreign language can act as an interpreter on a short-term basis.
Ruth Grove-White, policy director at the Migrants’ Rights Network has also warned against cutting the service, which she believes is necessary to ensure all members of a community can access the help and support they are entitled to.
“Speaking generally we would support efforts to encourage and help migrant to learn the English language but if translation services for new arrivals are removed, it could have long-term social and economic impacts on the region and we would urge authorities to maintain that,” she said.
Ms Grove-White also highlighted the ‘international outcry’ which followed threats made by the Dutch government in 2011 to stop funding translators in its health service as another example of negative consequences that could follow.