Robert Watts, Telegraph (London), May 26, 2013
London’s Metropolitan Police paid out £7.1 million on decifering 97 languages including the African dialects of Wolof, Yoruba and Oromo.
Rural constabularies have also spent substantial sums on language services. Thames Valley Police’s bill for translators and interpreters has exceeded £1 million in each of the past three years.
Forces in Kent, Norfolk and Lincolnshire have at times spent more than £400,000 a year on translation.
The figures – obtained using the Freedom of Information Act – expose one of the hidden costs of years of high migration.
They emerge after the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles deplored the use of translators by local authorities and said he wanted all people who live in Britain to speak English as their “first and predominant” language.
Some constabularies are already spending as much public money on translating Romanian as they do Polish. Whereas Poles became eligible to work and live in the UK nine years ago, Romanians became entitled to do so from January next year.
Police in Hertfordshire hired Romanian interpreters on 538 occassions during 2011. This was nearly 100 times more than the constabulary hired translators for Polish speakers.
In 2011 Surrey Police spent £39,764 hiring Polish interpreters and a further £39,648 on Romanian interpreters.
Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of the think tank MigrationWatch, said: “These are substantial sums that could be spent elsewhere especially in the present economic climate.
“It is concerning that a number of Romanian are already coming to police attention in some areas despite the relatively small size of their community.”
Greater Manchester Police spent £1.5million on translators between 2010 and 2012. The force said it will “usually engage with 72 languages” each year, including a range of dialects from the subcontinent such as Marathi, Telugu, Sylheti.
Over three financial years between 2009 and 2012, Police in Cambridgeshire paid out £1.8million to translate languages such as the Philippine dialect of Tagalog, Jamaican Patois and Amharic, which is spoken in parts of Ethiopia.
Suffolk Police’s spending on telephone translation services last year came in at £26,702 – 30 per cent over budget. The force also spent more than £200,000 on interpreters.
The Telegraph received responses from 35 police authorities. Forces in Hampshire, Northumbria and South Wales refused to handover any details on their spending on interpreters and translators.
In an interview with The Telegraph last week Mr Pickles attacked the routine use of translators and interpreters by local authorities.
“It’s a complete waste of money and sends out all the wrong messages,” the Communities Secretary said.
“It’s a badge of honour to some authorities to say the number of documents there are translating into different language. All we are doing by that is creating a culture of isolation.”
Sussex police is currently advertising for PCSOs paid up to £20,020 a year who speak East European to work in the Arun district.
Around 25,000 of the area’s 150,000 population are understood to have come from East Europe.
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Those who choose to live in Britain must make an effort to learn to speak English so that they are not burdening public services such as the police with these costs.
“Taxpayers rightly expect police forces to spend their money on frontline officers to keep us safe rather than on translation costs.”
Last week official figures showed that foreign workers account for more than half of the rise in employment in Britain over the past year.
The Office for National Statistics also said that 112,000 people who were born in Bulgaria or Romania are now working in Britain – a 14 per cent rise on the same period in 2012.