How Rushmoor and Government can meet the challenge
Since May 2009, when the UK Government gave former Gurkhas, their wives and children the right to settle in the UK, significant numbers have arrived in Rushmoor, so that the Council has been required to respond to their needs for services, including Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, and housing advice, and to liaise with other agencies, such as Social Services, Department for Work and Pensions, and Ministry of Defence, the Gurkha Welfare Centre (Trust), Citizens Advice Bureaux, and the Nepali community.
All of this has placed extra pressure on staff and resources, and concern among settled residents that their communities are changing at a very rapid pace in an obvious way as the new arrivals are generally elderly and are dressed distinctively.
This note reviews some of the issues with a view to seeing how Rushmoor and Government can meet the challenge of responding to our changing communities.
2.Councillors’ Seminar, 14 June 2011
With all the apparent changes in our communities, particularly due to the arrival of ex-Gurkhas and their families in the past two years, a Council Members’ seminar “Responding to Changing Communities” was held .
It provided the opportunity to learn about the make-up of Rushmoor and discuss issues that are being raised by settled residents and the Nepalese.
To understand the views of the settled residents, I obtained from Community Development Manager the reports prepared by The Campaign Company in 2010 [2,3] and watched the video clip “Rushmoor – The Nepalese Community”.
3.1.Following an invitation from Major (retd) Tikendra Dewan, President of the Greater Rushmoor Nepali Community [also Chairman, British Gurkha Welfare Society (BGWS)], I visited the Gurkha Bhawan in Farnborough for a meeting with him .
3.2.The meeting was specifically aimed at discussing the current issues involving Nepali migration and then extended to equal pensions for Gurkhas. Our exchange of views lasted some two hours, during which we had a very constructive and in-depth discussion on the problems encountered and their possible solutions.
3.3.I obtained copies of two background briefs [5,6], which covered the campaigns leading to the granting of settlement rights to Gurkhas and on-going for equal pensions.
3.4.Subsequently, there has been media coverage of the issues with input from BGWS [7–9].
3.5.Also, Tikendra Dewan put his case in a letter in the News & Mail, 29 July 2011 .
4.David Owens, British Council of Gurkhas
4.1.David Owens came to see me in the Mayor’s Parlour at the Council Offices in Farnborough as he wished to explain the case for restoring the rights of Gurkhas to be treated as British soldiers, in line with the Tripartite Agreement of 1947.
4.2.To further this objective, he formed the British Council of Gurkhas (BCG) in 2000 with the aim of lobbying and persuading those in positions of power and influence to consider and to change the current rules, as set out in the press release  and the BCG website.
5.Gerald Howarth MP, Aldershot Constituency
5.1.The issue of Nepali immigration into Rushmoor came to the fore at the beginning of this year, when the News & Mail published the news that Gerald Howarth MP had written to the Prime Minister about it .
5.2.My wife and I had the opportunity to discuss the issue of the inward migration into Rushmoor with Gerald Howarth MP last month.
5.3.He strongly expressed the view that no more Nepalese should come to live in Rushmoor. He said that he had found support among fellow MPs for his proposal to encourage newcomers to go to other areas.
5.4.Mr. Howarth had persuaded the Prime Minister to set up a cross-Government task force to review the present arrangements for the settlement of ex-Gurkha migrants.
6.Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen’s Organisation
6.1.The Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen’s Organisation (GAESO) took the lead in the successful campaign to persuade the Government to grant all ex-Gurkhas, their wives and children settlement rights in May 2009.
6.2 However, its reputation was tarnished when it was discovered that GAESO appeared to be requiring ex-Gurkhas to pay £500 for preparing applications for the right to settlement in the UK.
6.3.Last year, GAESO issued a statement “to clarify that the forced collection of £500 as ‘donations’ illegally and forcibly by former GAESO President Padam Bahadur Gurung and his executive committee should not create any confusion about the real GAESO we are operating in Nepal and in the UK. We are doing all our best to maintain the integrity of GAESO and its commitment for the cause of Gurkhas’ fight for equal rights.” 
6.4.In response to local publicity about the letter from Gerald Howarth MP to the Prime Minister, GAESO wrote to the Prime Minister in February 2011  and received a response from Veterans Minister Andrew Robotham MP in March 2011 .
7.Rushmoor Citizens Advice Bureau
7.1.With the arrival of ex-Gurkhas once the settlement rights were granted, Rushmoor CAB immediately saw a great increase in Nepali clients, and submitted evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee based on this experience .
7.2.Recently, the Gurkha Welfare All-Party Parliamentary Group agreed to visit Rushmoor CAB to learn of advisers’ experience in dealing with the whole range of issues on which Nepali clients seek and receive advice.
8.1.In terms of dealing with the number of Nepalese in Rushmoor, the Nepalese Partnership has worked well, so that, whilst there has been increased level of demand as a result of inward migration, that increased workload has not led to lengthy delays in providing services.
8.2.For example, while there may have been a significant increase in applications for Housing Benefit by Nepalese, with the services of two Nepalese translators funded by Government grant and based at the Council Offices and Rushmoor CAB, Rushmoor has maintained its premier position amongst all local authorities in the time taken to process applications.
8.3.Elderly Nepalese (ex-Gurkhas and their wives) are very visible in the waiting rooms of GP practices in some parts of the borough, but the local GP consortium has responded to the demand and has provided booklets in Nepalese to explain to the Nepalese how best to use the services available through the NHS .
8.4.Elderly Nepalese are also highly visible as they walk about in the town centres and parks, giving the impression that there are perhaps more of them than there really are, and some of the settled community see that presence as changing where they live very quickly.
8.4.However, there is a great willingness of the Nepalese to learn how best to integrate with the settled community, as evidenced by their active participation in organisations like Nepalese Help Maddhat Shamuha, the Adult and Community Programme of Samuel Cody Specialist Sports College (formerly Oak Farm Community School), and the OWLS Children’s Centre, Farnborough.
8.5.For those Nepalese who reside in Aldershot and Farnborough, there needs to be an on-going community development programme that integrates them into the settled community and takes into account the needs of all age ranges, including mothers with young children, youth and the elderly. A good example of this approach was the five-a-side football tournament for 14 teams in Manor Park, Aldershot, last week-end organised by Rushmoor Borough Council and Aldershot Town FC Football in The Community.
8.6.The UK Borders Agency has good up-to-date records of the inward migration of ex-Gurkhas, their wives and dependants, from which it is possible to gauge the rate of arrival and therefore to estimate the level of resources required now and in the future.
8.7.With the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) supporting an estimated 9,500 ex-Gurkhas in Nepal as welfare cases, there is every financial incentive for them to travel to the UK to exercise their settlement rights, where the minimum level of support available to them would include Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.
8.8.If the current arrangements continue and inward migration into the UK continues, a minimum of 10,000 ex-Gurkhas could exercise their settlement rights in the UK. At current rates of Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, NHS costs, Heating Allowance and Travel Concession amounting to £34,000 a year per couple, that gives a total annual estimated cost of £340m and a 20-year cost of £6.8bn.
8.9.The BGWS proposal to have equal pensions for equal service would give a total annual estimated cost of £75m and a 20-year cost of £1.5bn, but, as the MOD pointed out , only 10% of ex-Gurkhas would benefit.
8.10.The BGC maintains that its proposal to reinstate the rights of Gurkhas to be treated as British soldiers in line with the Tripartite Agreement of 1947 would give an estimated annual cost of £36m and a 20-year cost of £720m.
8.11.The question then becomes “Is it possible for Government to come forward with a proposal that will encompass the on-going claims about Gurkha pensions and rights while reducing the cost?”
8.12.With the settlement rights in place, there seems to be no way for the Government to avoid the 20-year cost of £6.8bn without finding some way of encouraging ex-Gurkhas, who would not benefit from the BGWS proposal, to return or to remain in Nepal.
8.13.A financial incentive could be payment of a Nepal residence allowance of £5000 a year, which would be equivalent to the average entitlement of a Gurkha under the BGWS proposal, but it would be paid to all who wished to sign up for it. For those already in the UK who sign up for it, they would be required to return to Nepal as their normal place of residence and would not be eligible to claim any benefits in the UK. Similarly for those in Nepal who sign up for it, Nepal would remain their normal place of residence and they would not be eligible to claim any benefits in the UK.
8.14.The total cost to the Government of this approach would give an additional estimated annual cost of £50m and a 20-year cost of £1.0bn for 10,000 ex-Gurkhas, over and above the BGWS proposal, giving a total 20-year cost of £2.5bn.
8.15.This approach would give Government a 20-year saving of £4.3bn on the estimated cost of the current arrangements.
9.1.As the Rushmoor Partnership is coping well with the demand for services from the inward migration, including community development, the level of grant from Government needs to be increased to continue to provide for this level of services.
9.2.In the light of experience of health, housing, living, travel and welfare costs of elderly Nepalese exercising their settlement rights, Government should consider a new approach to introduce a Nepal residence allowance of £5000 a year payable to all eligible ex-Gurkhas entitled to settlement rights in the UK.
 Rushmoor Borough Council, Responding to our Changing Communities:
 The Campaign Company with the Leadership Centre for Local Government, Key issues and community narratives, Report #1, February–April 2010.
 The Campaign Company with the Leadership Centre for Local Government, Methodology and Research, Report #2, February–April 2010.
 British Gurkha Welfare Society, The Current Gurkha Plight, 2006.
 British Gurkha Welfare Society, Nepal Brief – 2009.
 T. Dewan, “Gurkhas – small price for long overdue debt, News & Mail, 29 July 2011, p. 8.
 NHS Hampshire, Your Guide to choosing the right NHS service across Farnborough and Aldershot, SLA21290, NHS Creative, March 2011.
British Gurkha Welfare Society (BGWS):
British Council of Gurkhas (BCG):
United British Gurkha Ex-Servicemen’s Association (UBGESA):
Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen’s Organisation (GAESO):