Local authorities / local councils cover a number of services where international students at some point in the time of their study in the UK will have to or may need to come into contact with. The main areas of connection to international students include but are not limited to the areas below.
Council Tax payment: the building or flat you in, as sole occupant or with your family (if applicable) and joint occupancy, will be subject to payment for what is known as ‘Council Tax’ – this tax pays for a wide range of services that all members of society need; street lighting, collection of refuse/rubbish from your home, all council department services, etc.
Housing / accommodation: this subject as far as international students are concerned concentrates on powers the local authority/council has where for example students may be being exploited by ‘rogue’ (responsibilities and rules breaking) landlords or letting agencies are concerned. See also our separate ‘Accommodation section (5.)
Electoral services: even though international students are overseas nationals they are still required to complete electoral services forms sent to their rented accommodation addresses, even if not entitled to vote. However, for example, in the past under a former council in the current area of the BCP area, mandatory compliance electoral register forms were provided without sufficient clarity for international students.
The consequences were grave for both the Council and the students as the following experience that the UKNFS worked successfully with both the Nepali students affected and the council, to resolve the problem. Particulars below:
The international students (postgraduate, including PhD) did not complete and send back the form, nor the reminder form, nor a final reminder form. However, the latter included threats including that if they did not comply their credit ratings could be permanently black marked. It was at this point they contacted the UKNFS, frightened and confused. From their point of view, this two-couple household had done nothing wrong — they weren’t entitled to vote and therefore there was no need to complete the form as they were not British citizens, the university hadn’t contacted about such forms and what to do, etc. – and yet their futures were now in jeopardy because of the credit rating threat. At a loss they turned to the UKNFS to assist.
As a result, the matter was resolved by this community organisation that assisted with detailed email correspondence with the Electoral Services section of the former Bournemouth Council that accepted its/UKNFS guidance on adjusting the wording of their forms to take into consideration the international student, comprehension of English language provided information on systems and their purposes where the given form was concerned. This intervention prevented a major personal crisis for two, and potentially many other international students, and in this case their families, and at the same time enlightened the local Council, and by extension the university in question on how easily communications on important matters need to be international student appropriate.
Anti-Social Behaviour: local authorities have officers that provide reporting and intervention support when this occurs. This could be noisy neighbours, racist neighbours, including in shared/communal living settings, and in on-campus halls of residence, and in on the street, public transport, out in society and in workplace settings. ASB officers will coordinate with police officers.
Covid 19 and public health related: messaging, public health information, some Covid 19 testing locations and other forms of health-related support often involve activity and assistance by the local council in conjunction with Public Health, and the NHS. A major example is notices on pavements and in the street and shopping areas on Covid 19 related social distancing measures, etc.
Tourism information and events: The local council/local authority will be the best source of local tourist information such as on places to visit, museums, public parks and gardens, entertainment attractions such as piers and ‘sky eye’ wheels or towers whose feature is to give panoramic views of the town/city and broader area. The local authority will also be the main enabler of year-round events and arts festivals, some of them of national level importance such as Bournemouth Air Festival. They can also signpost and support on booking tourist accommodation.