This report explores lived experiences of ethnic diversity at the local community level in order to outline a strategy for responding to the challenges faced by areas undergoing dramatic demographic change.

Every region of the UK will become more ethnically diverse and see more migration in the coming decades. Record migration and higher birth rates among ethnic minority groups mean that this trend towards greater diversity will happen more rapidly than ever before. History tells us that this transition can challenge the resilience of communities: it can test local institutions and services, and cause understandable anxiety among settled residents.

This report presents original research conducted in areas of the UK that have high rates of migration, examining how diversity and migration are ‘normalised’ over time, and how recent trends are driving greater transience in migration and thereby placing new strains on communities.

Crucially, it finds that policy decisions that explicitly set out to ensure that ‘coming to the UK does not mean settling in the UK’ are counterproductive and shortsighted because they inhibit integration. They prevent migrants from forming relationships, make it harder for them to thrive in our labour market and make an active contribution to our economy, and create a considerable cost for public services. Migrant children are particularly badly affected, as delaying their entrance to the UK education system stymies their chances of thriving academically.

We therefore propose a series of measures aimed at central government, local authorities and other important non-state bodies (particularly universities) to alleviate local pressures caused by migration and ethnic diversity and to reduce transience. These measures include a four-step action plan for local authorities to ensure that they reap the benefits of a more diverse future, and a greater focus on areas that have recently undergone rapid demographic change, particularly those that are characterised by a history of low-level migration and high levels of transience or ‘churn’. Our findings, backed by electoral results, show that these areas are particularly vulnerable to heightened anti-immigration sentiments and social tensions, and low levels of integration.

At the core of our recommendations are three essential objectives.

  1. Ensure that immigration rules do not drive up transience and inhibit integration.
  2. Create the conditions for better local policy.
  3. Set up action plans for local authorities.