In this paper the SMF calls for the government’s new Immigration Skills Charge to be used to fund an expanded Controlling Migration Fund.
The Immigration Skills Charge comes into force today, which means that Employers hiring skilled a migrant worker must now pay an additional charge of £1,000 for every year they employ that worker in the UK. It is predicted to raise £250 million a year, and ministers have not announced where the money will be spent.
Skills training is already receiving a boost of up to £2.8 billion a year from the new Apprenticeships Levy, which also takes effect today, so the political impact of spending another £250 million here will be limited, whereas increasing the funding of the Controlling Migration Fund could help local authorities and others provide additional services to meet demands created by population change.
James Kirkup, Director of the Social Market Foundation, said:
“The addition of £250 million to the CMF would transform that fund in terms of both operations and perception, offering local authorities the scope for significant projects that would have significant – and visible – impact on the services they provide.
“Despite the clear evidence that immigration has beneficial economic effects, those benefits have not been distributed equally and are intangible and invisible to significant numbers of people.
“We believe that making those benefits more tangible and visible is an urgent national priority.”
£250 million might fund the construction of more than 700 new primary school classrooms, and if Clinical Commissioning Groups were allowed to bid for money from the Controlling Migration Fund, they could use that money for extended GP surgery opening hours and additional primary care staff time. £250 million might fund weekend access to a GP for more than 40 million people. A way to demonstrate the role that immigration played in funding these new services would be to fly a flag bearing a message to that effect.
All additional services funded from the migration charge should be visibly presented as the result of skilled migration to the UK, in order to demonstrate the economic benefits of migration to communities that have not previously felt those benefits.