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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 22:13 GMT
Translation costing public 100m
Ruth Kelly
The government is examining the issue of translation costs
More than 100m of public money is spent on translation services in the UK, the BBC has learned.

Local authorities spend 25m, NHS trusts 55m and the courts 31m on interpreting languages.

Refuse collection guidelines and one-to-one smoking sessions are among the services which have incurred costs because translations were provided.

Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly believes public services need to do more to promote social cohesion.

Phil Woolas, Communities Minister, said: "She [Ruth Kelly] has already made clear that public services need to give far greater priority to promoting social cohesion and shared values rather than supporting separateness and we are examining the issue of translation in this context."

Translation is not a disincentive
Trevor Phillips, former head of the Commission for Racial Equality

"We believe that the system may need to be rebalanced to give a greater focus on teaching English and this includes looking at the advice given from government, public bodies and local authorities."

He added: "But it is essential that we study this issue carefully first as there may be situations, such as access to medical services, where it is important that provision is made in other languages."

The BBC discovered that Peterborough Council translates details of its refuse collection service into 15 languages.

Meanwhile, Islington's NHS primary care trust in London is providing a Turkish woman who has lived in the UK for five years with one-to-one sessions to help her stop smoking translated into her own language.

Harmful policy

Speaking through a translator, a Bangladeshi woman who has lived in the UK for 22 years and does not speak English questioned this spending.

She said: "When you are trying to help us you are actually harming. Even before we ask, all we have to do is say hello, they are here with their interpreters. We just sit here doing nothing and we don't need to speak in English at all."

The former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, claimed that the cost of translation was simply a feature of globalisation.

He said: "Translation is not a disincentive. It allows them to get access to services while they learn English. Translation is a way of helping people in transition into integrating into our society."

The translation services on offer in the UK

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