Poles boost business

DZIEN dobry. My name is Anna. How can I help? Life for some of the A8 migrant workers who are vital to the health of Huntingdonshire s economy has become a little easier when it comes to finding accommodation. Polish workers in Huntingdon with limited

DZIEN dobry. My name is Anna. How can I help?"

Life for some of the A8 migrant workers who are vital to the health of Huntingdonshire's economy has become a little easier when it comes to finding accommodation.

Polish workers in Huntingdon with limited English can now easily find rental properties since law graduate Anna Graniczka was recruited by St Ives-based Maxine Lester Residential Lettings earlier this year.

Anna, pictured, left, with office manager Rachel Holmes, arrived in the UK last October. She had been doing charity work until Mrs Lester, despairing of difficult communications with some tenants of the Campbells agency that she acquired last December. She set about finding a Polish-speaking administrator among the company's applicants and landed Anna, who added Russian and some Latvian to the linguistic mix.


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"When we took over Campbell's Rentals, a quick analysis showed that about 50 per cent of its tenants were Eastern European," said Mrs Lester, a former Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Business Award winner. "A number of people were coming into the office and there was a bit of a language barrier. Many of them didn't have enough English, and we had no Polish.

"Since day one Anna has been an absolute boon. They can have a conversation and she can tell them what they need to do.

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"It also makes the process of matching them to suitable properties much quicker. We now know what's most important to them - whether it's an extra bedroom, a garden, a particular location.

"For example, one of them was having awful problems transferring utilities. All of a sudden it's not a big problem. Another was describing what sounded to be a horrific hole in the wall. It turned out to be no more than a dent."

Mrs Lester believes Anna's arrival is boosting business by attracting additional applicants for rental properties.

Most A8 migrants do not qualify for social housing and, because for the majority the intention is to return to their homeland in a few years' time, purchase is not a realistic option. So the private rented sector is key to meeting their housing needs.

Krystyna Gibbons, chairman of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce Anglo-Polish sector, said a lot of local companies that had employed significant numbers of migrants, such as Hilton Meats in Huntingdon, had appointed bilingual applicants or those with better language skills to more senior roles.

Social landlord Luminus, a sponsor of The Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Business Awards, and Cellbond Composites, a past winner, were among companies making use of migrants' skills, she added.

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