‘People want to live in Luton’

The number of people in Luton who were born abroad has risen by 57 per cent in the past 10 years, according to the 2011 census, released this week.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday showed that the town, which has a population of 203,200, is becoming increasingly multi-cultural, keeping in line with nationwide trends as the UK becomes a ‘global country’.

In 2001, 80 per cent of people living in Luton had been born in the UK, compared to 69 per cent in 2011. Those born abroad now number 62,872, with the most common non-UK birthplaces being Pakistan, Poland and Bangladesh.

MP for Luton South, Gavin Shuker, said the data showed people wanted to come to live and work in the town.

He said: “I’m proud to have been born in Luton, but I’m also proud that people who weren’t born here want to live in our town. We celebrate different cultures and faiths. Luton in Harmony has been especially successful, and we have the largest one-day carnival in Europe.”

The changes in demographic are also reflected in the religious make-up of the town. In 2001, 59 per cent of people in Luton defined themselves as Christian, compared to 47 per cent in 2011.

The number of people who defined themselves as Muslim rose from 14 per cent to 24 per cent, while the number of people with no religion rose from 14 per cent to 16.5 per cent.

Bishop of Bedford, Richard Atkinson, said religion showed a significant role to play in local life. He said: “There are challenges for the Church of England and for Christianity in general. But every day there are Christian people and Christian groups having an impact on people’s lives, such as Azalea working with women on the streets of Luton.”

The census also revealed an increase in the number of households in Luton with dependent children, from 34.4 per cent in 2001 to 36.1 per cent in 2011.

Mr Shuker added: “I worry about how we make sure our children have access to a proper education close to home. These statistics show that the government needs to rethink its priorities.

“The Tory-led government’s decision to cut Early Years, and to cancel Building Schools for Future has already made it harder for parents to find decent school places for their children.”

Other figures from the census revealed that 49 per cent of Luton residents are in employment, 27 per cent of households own neither a car nor a van, and 23 per cent of people have no qualifications.

The information will be used to determine how much money is allocated to local services in the town, including health, schools, housing and transport.