Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Rushmoor council asks for support for Gurkha migrants

Ghurkhas outside the High Court
Image caption Retired Gurkhas who served before 1997 can remain in the UK following a high profile campaign

Council chiefs have taken their concerns over an influx of former Gurkha soldiers in two Hampshire towns to Parliament.

Rushmoor council says many of those granted the right to live in the UK are elderly or speak little English, which is straining welfare services.

Councillor Charles Chaudhary gave evidence to an all-party parliamentary group on Gurkha welfare.

He called for "more funding to address these issues".

In 2009 the government allowed Gurkha soldiers who had retired before 1997 to settle in the UK, which followed a high-profile campaign lead by actress Joanna Lumley.

Military links

Many moved to north Hampshire because of its links to the military and its established Nepali community.

Mr Chaudhary, the council's portfolio holder for concessions and community support, said the increase from 620 to 2,356 Nepali households in the borough since 2009 has presented practical difficulties.

He said: "We welcome the Gurkha and people from Nepal but because of the numbers of people, the situation is becoming a bit tense in Aldershot and Farnborough."

Image caption Cllr Charles Chaudhary has given evidence to the all-party Parliamentary committee on Gurkha Welfare

"We're trying to help as much as we can, but it puts a lot of pressure on staff already having to meet targets."

The Conservative-run council has already had a £120,000 grant for two support officers for the Nepali community.

Leader of the Labour group on the council, Keith Dibble, said: "There is certainly a strong case for Rushmoor having additional funds to deal with the influx.

"Once the decision had been made [in 2009] and everyone got caught up in the emotion, the investment and the infrastructure should have been in place to manage it," he added.

In February, local MP Gerald Howarth wrote to the prime minister to request more funding and warned that local services risk being "overwhelmed".

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