'How many migrants live here?' Councils ditch Government figures and turn to supermarkets

Last updated at 14:54 06 March 2008

Councils are turning to supermarket giants Tesco to find out how many migrants live in their area - because Government figures are too unreliable.

The Local Government Association is proposing to use footfall data from supermarkets and other retailers to allocate funding for public services.

The suggestion comes amid growing concern over pressures on health, education and housing caused by high levels of migration.

Many councils complain that their funding from central Government is not reflecting the extra services they are being expected to provide.

LGA chairman Sir Simon Milton said that while migration was bringing in billions of pounds for the economy as a whole, some areas were bearing a disproportionate financial burden due to "inadequate" population information.

"No one has a real grasp of where or for how long migrants are settling so much needed funding for local services isn't getting to the right places," Sir Simon said.

"Everyone needs to eat and with the vast majority of people buying the food from supermarkets, understanding how many people visit shops may help ministers to get a better understanding of the number of people in a local area.

"Retailers are extremely professional in ensuring that they have accurate data on the number of people that are shopping, or being shopped for in their stores," he said.

"One proposal being examined is to look at ways of working with the retail sector to share or learn from them better techniques for collecting the information we need to help taxpayers and local people."

The LGA is also looking at using GP registrations, schools census data and national insurance numbers to provide more accurate population estimates.

It will publish a report later this year on the feasibility of new methods.

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