We live in a mobile culture, always have and probably always will. In the days before Supermarkets migrated food to our neighbourhood, some of us would migrate to find the food which we found most palatable. The need to work and feed our families has always acted as a strong inducement to packing up and moving. Some communities are more likely to travel than others. In the late 20th Century it was still possible to find residents of small and relatively unknown communities such as Hollingdean or Moulsecoomb in Brighton, who had never left their locality, never been down to the beach in their own city, never been to London, or even to Lancing. On the other hand, my own place of birth, Liverpool seems to have produced migrants in large numbers, with small networks of scousers resident in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings, let alone West Sussex. As part of the Conservative Party Conference 33 years ago Norman Tebbit spoke with pride about his Father who got on his bike to find work. Lord Tebbit as he is today exorted all of us to do the same. Such actions are bound to lead to challenges for those planning local services. However Lord Tebbit and indeed my fellow scousers and I were far from concerned about the impact we were having on Schools, GPs and even the emergency services, all of which have to be planned in advance.
On Sunday Boris Johnson speaking on the Marr show was using the impact of migration from within the European Union on local government services as a reason for wanting to close down our borders in a manner that would make him appealing to those currently voting for UKIP. The challenge with this argument is that the vast majority of migration within the UK is caused by residents of the UK moving to find new homes (or in some cases second or third homes). If Mr Johnson wants to put in place mechanisms that will stop UK residents and wealthy overseas residents from buying homes that they will not live in all the year round, he would find his appeal growing in many of the neighbourhoods where village Schools and shops, GP practices etc are proving to be unsustainable due to the ghost homes, homes that burst to life ever 2-3 weekends but whose owners and visitors do not need local services for any more than a bottle or two of milk and a newspaper.
When I was a member of the South East England Regional Assembly, we were responsible for planning for the impact of migration and population growth in our region. The vast majority of the demographic change was as a result of births amongst those already resident and population shifts from London as residents of the Capital moved out to find affordable accommodation. As they move out the homes they are vacating are filled with other people including the very wealthy from abroad (not predominately from within the EU). All of this demographic change creates challenges for Local Government planners.
I would support Boris in his desire to help out Local Authorities if he was sincere in his words. Sadly he is simply ratcheting up the rhetoric to outdo UKIP. I confess when I travelled to Sussex from Liverpool I was not at all concerned about the impact on local services. In my case I did so to study, and then finding Sussex to be a nice place to live, I put down roots and have been here ever since. Perhaps I should return? However whatever I do, at present I have no way of warning the relevant Councils of my plans. The truth is no English Council has a department that would be able to meaningfully handle that sort of information even if you and I were to provide it. If Boris plans to change all this, he needs to explain how it will work before making such statements.