Plymouth News: Police interpreter fees hit £290,000 a year

Friday, 31 October, 2008

A SHARP rise in the number of foreign people arrested in the Westcountry has led to the police bill for interpreters more than doubling in just five years.

Devon and Cornwall Police now spend almost £290,000 a year on translation services which the Tories claim is eating into budgets for front-line services.

The Government has begun forcing immigrants to pay an impact levy to help public services deal with the extra costs of widespread migration.

The annual influx of migrant workers into the Westcountry increased by 260 per cent between 2002 and 2008.

Some 40,000 people were given national insurance numbers in Devon and Cornwall in the five-year period, with many more moving to the region without registering to work.

In 2003-04, Devon and Cornwall Police spent £123,000 on interpreters but by last year, the figure had reached £282,000, a 129 per cent rise. The figure peaked in 2006-07 at £320,000.

The rise in the Westcountry is significantly higher than the average 63 per cent for England and Wales.

Shadow police minister David Ruffley said: 'These figures suggest we are importing more foreign criminals and consequently spending already stretched police budgets on translations rather than on more front-line policing of our streets. Migration into the UK has put even greater strain on already tight police force budgets.'

He added that the figures were further evidence of a need for a new border police force.

Concern has been raised repeatedly about the 'porous' nature of the UK's borders, with particular criticism aimed at the lack of checks at ports and airports in the Westcountry.

Customs chiefs have shifted resources towards major entry points like Dover and Heathrow as part of so-called 'intelligence-led' operations.

Tory leader David Cameron vowed to create a new 30,000-strong border police force to deal with illegal immigrant, smugglers, traffickers and terrorists.

Earlier this year, it emerged that since 2003, more than 3,000 foreign nationals had been arrested by Devon and Cornwall Police. The number has more than doubled in just four years- from 338 in 2003 to 859 in 2006, the last full year for which figures are available.

Schools, hospitals, housing and even libraries are said to be struggling to cope with the pressures of increased immigration. But the Government has insisted that efforts are being stepped up to ensure public services do not struggle with increased demand.

Last night, the Home Office said Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had met chief constables to discuss the impact of migration on policing. The Migration Impacts Forum had been set up to discuss these issues.

'That is also why we are undergoing the biggest shake-up of the immigration system and border security for more than 45 years. Under our new Australian-style points system, skilled workers wanting to come to the UK will also need to have an acceptable level of English.

'In addition, we are asking migrants to pay a little extra towards a fund of tens of millions of pounds to help services deal with short-term pressures of migration.'