Eric PicklesDavid Jones/PA Wire

Eric Pickles has fired another salvo in his war against councils wasting money. This time he has issued a Written Ministerial Statement, telling councils to stop wasting a small fortune in translating every leaflet they produce.

He claims it will not only save tens of millions of pounds a year, but will also transform community relations.



Waste of money

Pickles published the statement, and made an announcement in the House of Commons, saying that translating all these leaflets was expensive and a poor use of taxpayers' money. He added that worries over human rights and equality laws were over-riding common sense.

According to the Daily Telegraph, councils currently spend £20 million a year translating documents - following government guidelines set out in 2007.

Pickles cited a couple of shocking examples - including the 12-page brochure translated at a cost of £600, after one Crawley resident complained that they couldn't speak English.

Even Pickles accepts that there will be situations where a translation would be helpful to people in an emergency, but he has concluded that it's not worth the enormous cost. Of course he couched this in MP-speak - saying: "Even if publishing only in English could put some people at a particular disadvantage, such a policy may be justified if local authorities can demonstrate that the integration and cost concerns pursue a legitimate aim and outweigh any disadvantage."

According to the Guardian he said that stopping automatic translations: "Will help councils make sensible savings, at a time when every bit of the public sector needs to do its bit to pay off the deficit."

Whether the enormous savings are worth the human cost is a matter for debate.

Good for Britain?

But perhaps the more contentious argument he put forward to the House of Commons was that by denying people translated documents, it would force people to learn English, or to go to another member of their community who did speak English.

He said: "Stopping the automatic use of translation and interpretation services into foreign languages will provide further incentive for all migrant communities to learn English, which is the basis for an individual's ability to progress in British society. It will promote cohesion and better community relations."

This is one argument.

Alternatively, you could argue that it will cut vulnerable people off from the council services that are available to help them, and further marginalise individuals who may already be struggling to integrate into the UK.

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.


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