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Stop migrant workers exodus, say local councils

Migrant labourers are the backbone of the workforce, says chairman of LGA 19 January 2009 – Agriculture and care homes will be two of the industries hardest hit by a double whammy of an exodus amongst migrant workers during the recession and new restrictions on non-EU recruits, council leaders will say in a new report published tomorrow.

Farmers are warning they will lose money and food will be left to rot if migrants begin to return home. Care homes say that a combination of new restrictions on non-EU workers and the possibility of migrant workers leaving the country could make it impossible to recruit staff without increasing care costs.

The new research by the Local Government Association analyses the impact the recession could have on migrant labour in a variety of different industries. Council leaders are today putting forward a three point plan to ensure that the businesses most likely to be affected can cope.

Councils will lead the response to an outflow of migrant workers by bringing together local businesses, the Learning and Skills Council and Job Centre Plus to identify what skills local employers need workers to have and make sure people get the training they need to fill any vacancies.

In the short term, the Home Office must review the shortage occupation list so care homes can recruit the skilled staff they need, at a cost they can afford.

The LGA is advising councils to monitor their local population carefully for signs that migrant workers are returning home and has produced a guide to help councils do this.

Councillor Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the LGA, a cross party organisation which represents councils in England, said:
“If migrant workers begin to return home in large numbers, it could put real strain on some of the key services and industries we all take for granted. This report is a stark reminder that councils and businesses across the country need to be alert to any changes in their local workforce.

“Farmers are already saying they’ve lost money because they can’t fill jobs. If seasonal migrant workers can’t be recruited, this will only get worse and losses could be passed on to consumers. Unharvested food will go to waste and food will need to be shipped in from abroad, both of which will damage the environment.

“In the case of the care system, migrant workers are the backbone of the workforce. If care homes can’t employ the staff they need at a cost they can afford, it will have a direct impact on the elderly and frail. Those who are already struggling to make ends meet will be deeply concerned by the prospect of a rise in the cost of their care.

“Councillors are elected to put local people first and will be leading the way, working with the Learning and Skills Council and Job Centre Plus, to make sure that local people have the skills that businesses need.

"The Home Office needs to review the shortage occupation list so that care homes up and down the country can keep providing the level of care elderly people deserve, at a cost they can afford.

“The LGA is helping councils by publishing a guide on how they can calculate their local population more accurately and spot any changes quickly. This means councils can respond before it’s too late and get people the training they need to fill local vacancies.”

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