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Communities minister angers Sussex councils
Councils are expected to ignore Government guidance ordering them to stop “unnecessary” translations of newsletters and information leaflets.
Communities minister Eric Pickles has called on local authorities to reduce the translation of information for non-English speakers in a bid to save money and improve integration.
However, the outspoken ministers’ advice has been rejected with councils claiming the cost to them is negligible.
Mr Pickles claimed earlier this week that councils could save £20 million a year by reducing translating of materials they “wrongly believe” they have a legal duty to produce.
The Tory minister singled out Crawley Borough Council as an example claiming the authority had spent £600 publishing a glossy 12-page quarterly Homelink lifestyle magazine into Urdu because one resident complained they could not read English.
However, a Crawley Borough Council spokesman said the total spent on written and spoken translation services in the current financial year was just £4,135 and that all requests for translations are carefully vetted by a council officer.
He added that letters were translated to meet legal obligations, for example if a tenant has difficulty in understanding a possession claim for rent arrears.
The Ministry of Justice would expect the council to take reasonable steps to communicate information to the tenant in a way they could understand.
A spokeswoman for Arun District Council said it cost nothing to translate material into a range of languages because the work was carried out by their expanding communities team which is funded by local councils, police and health authorities.
She added: “Arun has got a diverse population and wants to make all its services accessible to everyone.
“We have, in the past, had leaflets and posters translated into Polish, Russian, Portuguese and Lithuanian as well as other languages where we have felt there is a need to engage with people whose first language might not be English.”
A Brighton and Hove City Council spokeswoman said: “The council translates published documents into different languages on request only.”
A West Sussex County Council spokeswoman said information is printed only in English unless there is a specific need, such as promoting awareness of hate crime and racist incidents, which is specifically commissioned.
The spokeswoman added that costs were being reduced and the majority of services were for face-to-face interpretation for which the council was part of a county wide agreement with other local authorities and police.
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