‘We should hand immigration awards back and apologise to the people of Boston’

Paul Kenny
Paul Kenny

Criticism has been levelled at the council’s award-winning 2012 report into immigration - with claims the authority should ‘hand the awards back’.

The comments come from Coun Paul Kenny after a visit to London to meet with shadow Home Office minister David Hanson and immigration minister James Brokenshire.

Coun Kenny, who actually chaired the group behind the report, discussed issues relating to population change and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) with the ministers.

He spoke to The Standard about his views on what he sees as the ‘lack of progress’ since Boston Borough Council’s ‘Report on the Social Impact of Population Change’.

The council disputed his claims and labelled his comments ‘reckless’.

Coun Kenny doesn’t think enough has been done about the report’s recommendations. “The council has been hiding behind that report,” he said. “I think we should apologise to the people of Boston.”

He accepts some of the recommendations are for Government but says action could have been taken on HMOs.

The immigration report picked up two titles at the Centre for Public Scrutiny awards in 2013. Coun Kenny said: “I actually believe we should give those awards back.”

Official figures show the borough’s population increased from 55,750 in 2001 to 64,600 in 2011 – but many believe the figure to be higher.

Coun Kenny said: “I think people need to register with the local authority when they come here. I don’t think they should be getting the services until they do. “How can we plan services, health services and police when we don’t know how many people live here?”

Coun Kenny said the council could make a case for more funding from central Government if it was able to show a higher figure for population.

“Licensing HMOs would give us a chance to know whether they are paying their council tax and it would stop the overcrowding of houses,” he said. “I spoke to David Hanson about the issue of HMOs in Boston and he agreed we should have licensing. If we have licensing there will be contracts, powers to penalise rogue gangmasters and a chance to stop the exploitation of workers.”

He added: “I’m pleased we have introduced the drinking order but really disappointed we have not introduced the licensing of HMOs.”

He said both ministers are writing to him with recommendations on how to deal with issues at a local level.

Responding to Coun Kenny’s comments, Coun Mike Gilbert said the Conservative administration had worked ‘tirelessly’ - tackling issues in the report such as alcohol-related anti-social behaviour with measures such as removing benches that had become trouble spots and introducing a street booze ban.

He said they had exposed and tackled exploitative employers and landlords, adding: “We have publicised the link between alcohol and crime levels as well as promoting the town in positive ways.

“We have worked hard to identify the causes of high levels of migration and the link with in-work benefits.

“We have not stopped at the report – we have gone beyond the report and Coun Kenny’s comments are reckless given some issues are by definition ‘ongoing’ and I feel frankly ill-informed.”