THURROCK is growing more diverse as its population increases, the most recent census results have shown.

Statistics released following the detailed Government survey, conducted in March 2011, show a steep population jump of 14,500, with the number of black Africans residing in Thurrock up by more than 1,000 per cent.

Around 9.1 per cent of Thurrock’s total population has arrived within the last ten years, with almost every ethnic group and religion seeing an increase in numbers.

The census also shows Thurrock as having the third highest number of unmarried couples living together with children, in 3,703 households. More than 10 per cent of couples living together in the borough are not married.

Labour council leader John Kent said this was an issue for society as a whole, while the Conservative leader Phil Anderson has called it “concerning”.

The borough’s elected members have all welcomed a changing and more diverse Thurrock, but warned policy should reflect this and pleaded with residents to ensure communities are harmonious.

They have called on residents to show more aspiration, too, as figures show Thurrock is among the lowest in the country, and well below national average, when it comes to people being in professional occupations.

More than 81 per cent of people in Thurrock are White British. The second largest ethnic group in the borough is Black African British, which is 9,742 strong, constituting 6.2 per cent of the population, the 14th highest percentage in the UK.

In 2001, there were just 971 Black African British people living within the community. That is the most significant jump, but almost all ethnic groups have seen a relatively big rise in population since 2001.

Cllr Kent said: “For the council the numbers play a pivotal role. The money the council receives from central government is based on these numbers.

“The figure is one that the Government put into its formula to decide how much we receive towards providing services like social care for the young and the old or emptying your bins.”

The 2011 census results have pointed to the importance of Lakeside shopping centre and the borough’s retail hubs in Grays and Corringham as a source of jobs.

More than 20 per cent of Thurrock’s population is employed within the retail and vehicle repairs industries, one of the highest proportions in England and Wales.

Paul Lancaster, Lakeside general manager said: “We continuously strive to support local organisations, schools and more through donations and sponsorship.

“This work is just part of our commitment to shoppers and local residents, to recognise and reward deserving charitable causes in the local community and support young people.”

* Full census coverage in this week's Thurrock Gazette.