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Translation services are a 'vital resource' for East Lancashire
COUNCILLORS have criticised plans to reduce the number of official documents translated into foreign languages.
It comes as communities secretary Eric Pickles said local authorities should only produce material in other languages in emergencies.
In a statement to Parliament, the minister said widespread translation was expensive and undermined work to integrate non-English speaking immigrants into communities.
However Coun Julie Cooper, leader of Burnley Council, and Coun Yusuf Jan Virmani, Blackburn with Darwen’s executive member for neighbourhoods, housing and customer services, stressed how important the service is. Coun Cooper said: “If communicating with our residents is wasteful, Eric Pickles must live in another world to the rest of us.
“Our translation service was severely cut back and now it’s supplied as and when it’s needed.
“But I don’t think we do nearly enough for community members whose English isn’t very strong.”
Blackburn runs the same system in translation provision, a service Coun Virmani believes is absolutely necessary. He said: “I don’t agree with him at all, there’s a real need for elderly people who are too old to learn English to have accessible services.
“As time goes on, less and less people live here who cannot speak the language.
“But for those who don’t, it’s really needed to educate and work with them.
“For some areas it’s not needed at all, but for areas like Audley, and Blackburn in general, it’s a vital resource which we use when it’s necessary.”
MP Jack Straw agreed with the minister’s guidance, but stressed the impact of how a lack of translation services might be felt by older people who struggle with English.
He said: “I support the direction he’s moving in, but there needs to be a full and careful assessment of any changes and potential fallout.
“I quite often have to have a translator at my advice surgeries so older constituents can converse with me.
“But language barriers are decreasing over time.
“Now the rules have changed with regards to how well you must speak English to move here, less people who speak little or no English will be able to settle here.”