Thursday 15 January 2015

Immigration: Rhyl's West side story

Parts of West Rhyl have been compared to a slum

Bored as I am of making the case, this non-entity of a story is absolutely central to the immigration debate. A war of words has broken out between the police, fire service and landlords over claims that parts of Rhyl have been turned into a crime-ridden “ghetto” because of a glut of rented properties.
The spat erupted after an officer said poor management of multiple-occupancy housing (HMOs) was a factor in how many incidents police were being called to in west Rhyl.
The reason there is a perception that we are "swamped" with immigrants is because they tend to be clustered in small town centres and congregate in clusters as Councillor Simon Cooke points out on his blog, and part of this dynamic is Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) which are supposed to be inspected and licensed and managed by councils. They don't do it. Consequently, even if gang labourers were paid minimum wage (yea right), local workers still cannot compete because immigrants can massively undercut on expenses by way of overcrowding HMOs. 

The Landlords Association confirms "Councils are dreadful at prosecuting rogue landlords. The prosecution rate in 2012 was less than 500 out of 1.5m landlords."Councils often won't do anything about it because if they evict they have a statutory obligation to house them, adding to an already acute problem. The overcrowding and consequent crime it brings is what generates a great deal of resentment.

Since we cannot usefully militarise the borders and check everyone coming in and out, what we very much can do is properly enforce minimum wage and housing standards - but only if we remove the regulatory barriers standing in the way, namely Westminster housing diktats and ECHR rulings. It is unlikely we could affect the latter inside the EU, but even IF we leave the EU and the ECHR, we would still have to retain the single market which includes free movement, but not necessary the right to settle. Consequently we need an intelligent immigration management policy, which is not forthcoming from the likes of Ukip.

The resultant effect of managing the basics properly is that native workers can compete, the fiscal reward (the immigration pull factor) is reduced for immigrants, and thus we retain openness, but also slow the flow of people to a manageable level - ensuring that immigrants are not exploited.

Like the grooming issue, the fact it is not managed properly is because it is a nuanced problem requiring a multi-agency approach working from a targeted policy. As much as it is the result of a lack of joined up thinking and coherent policy, it is also a result of local councils being hamstrung by London diktats which are simply unrealisable. This can change through proper devolution of policy to properly localised councils.

It is my view that effective local government is thrice more effective than a quasi-military border force trying to enforce state quotas as Ukip as would have it. Even if we could mitigate just a few of the more visible problems, it helps manage perceptions so that people will come to realise that immigration isn't such a big deal and it doesn't really affect them.

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