Opposing Views on the Cost of Translation Services.

Peterborough City Council is compiling its very first translation policy, after a number of local councillors complained that too much money was being spent on these services in Peterborough. It comes after the City Council spent a hundred and fifty four thousand pounds on translators and interpreters last year, even though other services are being cut.

07:15 Tuesday 16th November 2010
Peterborough Breakfast Show BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Also this morning we’re going to be talking about translation services, and the cost of in Peterborough. Peterborough City Council is compiling its very first translation policy, after a number of local councillors complained that too much money was being spent on these services in Peterborough. It comes after the City Council spent a hundred and fifty four thousand pounds on translators and interpreters last year, even though other services are being cut. We went out into Peterborough to gauge people’s reaction to this. (TAPE) (VOXPOP)
ONE: It’s quite a lot, yes.
TWO: I think if you live in that country you should be able to speak the language, even if it’s minimal, just to get you across to the other person.
THREE: A lot of people go and live in a country to learn a language.
FOUR: No I don’t think that’s fair. I think you have other reasons to actually move countries, not for a language, do you, really?
FIVE: I think it’s disgusting.
SIX: No I don’t think that should be. If they’re going to live in this country they should really learn the language, I suppose. Same as if I was going to live in a foreign country I’d be expected to learn the language.
SEVEN: If they can’t express themselves, they do need to have a translator.
EIGHT: If you went to another country, you were living in another country, you’d hope for the same thing to be given to you. It’s not always, but you’d hope for it.
NINE: That’s a heck of a lot of money.
TEN: I think it’s probably a necessity. This is a city now of a multi-cultural people, so we have to accept it, spend money on it, I suppose.
PAUL STAINTON: Well a mixed bag of comments. Kevin Roddis is a spokesperson for the ..(HESITATION) I’m sorry about that. I do apologise. (SOUND) I’ve just dropped my pen. Kevin Roddis is a spoksperson for the English Democrats. He’s with us this morning. Morning Kevin.
KEVIN RODDIS: Good morning.
PS: What are your issues with the translation services?
KR: I think the biggest issue is the lack of transparency really. Everything is just glossed across the top. Any time you raise any issues on it they try the emotive track. For example, if you talk about it they’ll go on about Braille translation, sign language, people with learning difficulties. I don’t think anybody minds paying for that type of translation. But if someone’s come to this country, we use English in this country. That’s how we communicate to each other, and I think they should actually learn how to speak English.
PS: Yes but surely we need to help them do that, don’t we? We need to help them integrate into society. And part of that process is facilitating their conversion to speaking English. But if they can’t understand what’s going on, they’re never going to learn, are they?
KR: There’s no reason why we can’t facilitate it by actually having a bank of people who can translate for them, but let them pay for it. Why do we have to pay? And I’ve got friends who work in Peterborough schools. And we don’t provide any service in the schools. The schools have to cope with umpteen languages being spoken in the classroom.
PS: But we have to pay. The European Union tells us we have to. It’s in law. It’s enshrined.
KR: Well the Council try and tell us that they have a legal obligation. But I’d like to see exactly what that legal obligation is. As soon as you start to say, well OK, there’s a legal obligation. Show me exactly what that is.
PS: What are you saying there Kevin? Are you saying if people come here, from Europe or wherever, you just let them get on with it, let them fend for themselves?
KR: I think you have to know where they can go for help. But I think for them to expect us to pay for that translation, particularly when there’s cutbacks elsewhere, is an expectation too much.
PS: Is it really that much money though, a hundred and fifty thousand pounds, in the grand scheme of things?
KR: I suppose you could say a hundred and fifty four thousand isn’t a lot. And doubtless the Council will. But they’re going to raise just thirty thousand by actually charging pensioners the full whack for their allotment use.
PS: What would you do Kevin then? What would you do with people that couldn’t speak English in this city? How would you help?
KR: I think what you have to do is make sure there’s a service there. But if somebody comes along and uses the facilities that we provide, then they have to be prepared to pay for the translation service themselves.
PS: Right.
KR: The one exception I would make is if the Council, or for example if it’s a police matter, and they could be in difficulties, then yes we should pay for it. But if it’s some enquiry they’re making, then they should be prepared to pay for it.
PS: What about immigrants though, that are coming in here seeking refuge, the poorest people, the most defenceless people in the world? We’re a welcoming country. We’re a country that’s noted for taking these people in, helping pick them up off the floor, and getting back on with their lives. We’re saying that there’s no point coming here?
KR: Why are we saying that? That’s the sort of emotive language the Council uses, trying to twist it. No we’re not saying that. We’re just saying that this is a cost which the indigenous people can’t afford to carry at the moment. And therefore, if they want that help, we will show them where it is, but they have to pay for it.
PS: How are they going to do that, if they’re fleeing war-torn Angola, or somewhere else?
KR: Well probably you’re speaking about asylum seekers, ratrher than immigrants there. And again this is this language where people switch from one thing to another, on an emotive track, to try and confuse the issue. And if it is an asylum seeker, then I don’t see .. then OK, that’s a different case. I’m just talking about immigrants.
PS: So you’re going to have a .. what .. you’re going to have something for them, and something for immigrants, something for asylum seekers, that’s all going to cost, isn’t it?
KR: It would cost us for asylum seekers. But that’s a different case. We’re talking about immigrants, people who come here to work.
PS: Kevin, thank you very much. Kevin Roddis, an English Democrat spokesperson. His view on the cost of translation services. Your thoughts appreciated 81333 on text 315444 on the phone. Kevin thinks if people have come here they should pay for their own translation services, if they’re an immigrant, a kind of a separate system for asylum seekers. I didn’t quite understand it, but I’m sure Kevin knows what he’s talking about.


Peterborough Breakfast Show BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Peterborough City Council is compiling its very first translations policy, following complaints from local councillors. The councillors were upset after it was revealed that the City Council spent a hundred and fifty four thousand pounds on translators and interpreters last year. Leader of the City Council is Marco Cereste. Good morning Marco.
MARCO CERESTE: Hello Paul. How are you?
PAUL STAINTON: I’m very good thank you.
MC: Nice to hear you again.
PS: Thank you. Nice to speak to you. We heard from a councillor earlier saying that people that come to this country should pay for their own translation sevices. What’s your reaction to that?
MC: Well I don’t want to get involved in that one. That’s a national issue, and if the Government sorts out the issues in immigration obviously we’ll go along with the national law. But at the moment we have a responsibility for people in Peterborough, and what some of these people are not telling you, and they conveniently forget, is that over half, in fact probably three quarters of what we spend on what we call translation, either oral or written, is spent in children’s social care. And what are you going to do? Are you going to try and tell me that we shouldn’t be protecting these children, whether they may be of British origin, or otherwise? They live here. Do we want a Baby P in Peterborough, or a ClimbiĆ© happening in our city? Would we be proud of that because we decided to neglect the fact that they don’t speak English?
PS: So some of this money is not being spent on translation? Or it is?
MC: It is being spent on translation. But if you’ve got .. let’s say you’ve got a child who comes from a foreign country. They may have been here for a while. Their English is not perfect yet. They’re still learning. And they have social care problems, or they’re in the social care system. A hundred and twelve thousand pounds of that translation budget is spent on children, in the children’s social care system. So I have every .. you know me. I’m the first one to say we’ve got to make cuts where they’re appropriate, and we’ve got to balance the budget, we’ve got to create new jobs. But we can’t put our kids at risk.
PS: And that’s the reason, when you’re cutting other things, this absolutely you are keeping?
MC: No well actually we’re not actually absolutely keeping this. Again this is another fallacy that people are spreading, because it suits them to make political noise. There isn’t a budget for translation. It’s part of an overall budget which our Directors have, and they know they have to keep those costs to a minimum. So they’re not giving X amount of pounds to somebody, spend that on translation. It’s not true. What happens now is the Directors have an overall budget, and they have to spend what is needed to make the thing work. Because remember they say there’s no legal obligation. Actually there is. If a local authority has a statutory obligation to deliver a service, that service has to be delivered in a way in which you do not disciminate. If you can’t make the other person understand what that service is, in law you are discriminating, and therefore you have a problem. Now what we have done, we’re now introducing new technology. And we’re introducing that into the Children’s Services and schools, which should save us a lot of money. It’s called an EMAS technology. It’s web-based. It does translation on the web. It works with the curriculum. It works with individual children. Individual children who share languages, or don’t share languages, can talk to each other over the web. So we think this will actually save us a lot of money in translation. But the reality of it is that whether a child is English origin, or Asian origin, or Polish origin, we have to protect these children. And we’ve got to make sure that nothing happens to them, that shouldn’t happen to them. And unfortunately, if they don’t speak our language, we have to keep doing what we can until they do. And that’s the world we live in. Let’s be reasonable about this. This is about being human. It’s about treating everybody so that they can have a decent life.
PS: You’re putting together a translations policy, to cover all of this, aren’t you? Just tell me you’re not using consultants
MC: No we’re not. (SNIFF)
PS: Good. (LAUGHS)
MC: No I’m not.
PS: The only thing I was worried about. Everything else, most of us agree with, to be fair, with you. It’s important we look after the kids of this city, isn’t it?
MC: Absolutely. And not only .. remember that a lot of these children are children who come from very very difficult situations, who have probably had a pretty awful life so far. Do we want to make it worse for them? Do we want to put them in danger, when they live in our city? If the Government doesn’t want to let them in, that’s another story. But whilst they’re here, we’re responsible for them. And we’ve got to do our best by them. And that would apply to any child.
PS: What will the new policy cover that you’re putting in place? How will it be different?
MC: Well it’s about making sure that we don’t discriminate. It’s about making sure that we’re using modern technology that works, so that we can reduce costs. And to make sure that we use the appropriate type of system which may help us save costs, but continue to protect the people we have responsibility for.