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Minister criticises council over cost of translation
Monday, March 25, 2013

Crawley Borough Council has been criticised by a government minister for spending £600 on translating a magazine into Urdu for one resident.

The council has spent more than £4,000 translating documents into other languages this financial year.

Eric Pickles MP, who is Secretary of State for Communities, issued guidelines to all local councils on March 11 ordering them to stop wasting money on automatically translating in house newsletter, magazines, and leaflets for migrants. He said the practice was discouraging minority communities from learning English. Mr Pickles raised the issue in the House of Commons. The Department for Communities and Local Government also published his comments about the council’s magazine spend on translating its 12-page quarterly magazine Homelink into Urdu on its website on March 13.

But Crawley Borough Council said it did not automatically translate documents. People apply for a translation and all requests are carefully vetted.Mr Pickles said according to the Department of Communities and Local Goverment translation services, translating documents cost the public sector £100million a year nationally. The council has spent £4,135.08 on written and spoken translation services, including English audio versions of residents magazine Crawley Live and Homelink. The council said the documents, usually letters, were translated into French, Gujarati, Polish, Urdu, Russian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Tamil and Mauritian Creole.The council stressed it normally translated these letters to meet legal obligations, for example claims for rent arrears. The council spent £6,197.47 on translation services in 2010/11 and £4,541,07 in 2011/12. A council spokesman said: “We keep our expenditure on translations under review and spend has decreased each year for the last three. We do not automatically provide translations for any document.The Ministry of Justice expect us to be able to demonstrate that reasonable steps have been taken to ensure that the information has been communicated in ways that the tenant can understand.”

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