Councillor accused of ‘dangerous’ views during immigration debate

Labour's Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, Chris Williamson MP, third from left, with the report on cohesion and integration that he and Professor Harris Beider, fourth from left, have compiled. Also pictured, from left, leader of Boston Borough Council, Coun Peter Bedford, portfolio holder for community development and task and finish group member Coun Mike Gilbert, who chaired the meeting and introduced the group's own investigations into the social impact of population change, the report being held by group chairman, Coun Paul Kenny.
Labour's Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, Chris Williamson MP, third from left, with the report on cohesion and integration that he and Professor Harris Beider, fourth from left, have compiled. Also pictured, from left, leader of Boston Borough Council, Coun Peter Bedford, portfolio holder for community development and task and finish group member Coun Mike Gilbert, who chaired the meeting and introduced the group's own investigations into the social impact of population change, the report being held by group chairman, Coun Paul Kenny.

A borough councillor has been accused of making ‘dangerous’ comments and ‘fanning the flames’ of tension surrounding immigration.

The exchange occurred during a visit by Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North and Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, and professor Harris Beider.

The pair have co-authored a report entitled Citizenship, Cohesion and Integration and met Boston Borough Council’s Task and Finish Group, which has put together its own ‘impact of population change’ report.

During the meeting borough councillor Ossy Snell, of Fishtoft ward, claimed a lot of criminal offences appeared to be committed by foreign people, and argued that those who did should be deported.

He added that those migrating here should learn English, saying at night he could often walk through Boston unable to understand what people were saying.

“I’m really disappointed in your point as it shows how dated it is,” Mr Beider responded.

He said: “What you have said is really, really dangerous in all sorts of ways.”

He added he felt Mr Snell was ‘fanning the flames’ of tension and pointed to Porto in Portugal, where English migrants have their own schools and shops.

He said: “Boston as a town has changed and it’s not going back. Migrants in Boston won’t go away – they’ve made it their home. Rather than be fearful it can be a positive source for change.”

Lincolnshire Police Chief Insp Paul Timmins also dismissed claims migrant workers were responsible for rising crime – highlighting the fact crime had decreased.

Councillors Mike Gilbert and Paul Kenny spoke about the ways they were working with national and local agencies and government departments to deal with issues such as street drinking and HMOS.

With help from community and police leaders they explained how they are trying to help integration.

Mr Williamson said Boston was clearly ‘rising to the challenge’.

Speaking afterwards, he said the previous Labour government made some ‘errors’ with its immigration policy, but added: “I think we have certainly learned from that and given the privilege of performing it (government) in the future, we may act differently.”