Translate this, Mr Pickles...

Communities secretary Eric Pickles
Communities secretary Eric Pickles

COUNCIL chiefs in St Helens have hit back at claims by communities secretary Erci Pickles they spend too much on translation and interpretation costs.

Mr Pickles has ordered local authorities to stop automatically translating information leaflets and posters into foreign languages.

And he said Whitehall figures showed the practice cost town hall across the country around £20m every year.

However, in response to a request from the St Helens Reporter, St Helens Council has revealed it spent just £5,667.96 on the service during the last financial year.

This included spending on publishing information in Braille as well as producing leaflets in German, Chinese and Bengali.

Council leader Marie Rimmer (pictured along with Mr Pickles) said: “Local authorities provide more than 700 local services, from fixing the roads and collecting the bins to caring for the elderly and safeguarding children so it is essential that we communicate with all our residents including braille for our blind residents.”

Mr Pickles acknowledged council have a legal duty to not to discriminate but not to translate documents into a foreign language.

“Even if publishing only in English could put some people at a particular disadvantage, such a policy may be justified if local authorities can demonstrate that the integration and cost concerns pursue a legitimate aim and outweigh any disadvantage,” he said.

“Stopping the automatic use of translation and interpretation services into foreign languages will provide further incentive for all migrant communities to learn English, which is the basis for an individual’s ability to progress in British society,” the communities secretary told MPs.