Key services called on to help prove how many migrants are in Boston

MP Mark Simmonds and Brandon Lewis, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government
MP Mark Simmonds and Brandon Lewis, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government

Representatives of key services in Boston will be asked to help prove the full extent of the town’s population growth to help earn more funding.

MP Mark Simmonds invited government minister Brandon Lewis from the Department for Communities and Local Government to meet councillors and organisations to discuss the challenges faced by the impact of immigration.

Mr Lewis heard about recent Census results which show Boston has had one of the highest percentage population increases in the country – up by 15.8 per cent. But he was told that the new population figure of 64,600 was still an underestimate.

Speaking to press at the meeting, Mr Simmonds said: “There is a significant migrant population that’s here in Boston, most of whom are here to work, but that is not reflected in my view in the national funding formulas – and it needs to be so.”

Mr Lewis has challenged Boston Borough Council to provide further evidence to show the population is higher than official figures show.

He said: “Based on the Census figures we’ve got, we do think it is the right figure. But if the local area think they can make a case that the figures are higher then they need to put that evidence together and put it to us.”

The council believes there could be as many as 15,000-20,000 unregistered foreign nationals who use council resources.

Mr Simmonds added: “Representatives of the key service sectors will provide further evidence to put the greatest possible pressure we can on the relevant Government ministry to make sure that here in the borough of Boston we get our fair share of resources.”

Coun Raymond Singleton-McGuire, joint deputy leader of Boston Borough Council, told Mr Lewis that there could be as many as 15,000 to 20,000 unregistered foreign nationals who used council resources.

Mr Lewis said: “We need to be able to evidence the unregistered people – the ONS figures do not match the anecdotal evidence.”

Chief Executive Richard Harbord said the council would make efforts to provide the information, but warned it was not an easy task.

Mr Lewis heard from town doctor Dr Peter Holmes of the difficulties facing the health service. He said the trouble stemmed from the sheer numbers, language barriers, drink-related injuries, identification of adults responsible for children and availability of patients’ medical information from their countries of origin.

Coun Gurdip Samra, an intensive care consultant at Pilgrim Hospital, said 2007 had been a tipping point. From 2001 to 2012/13 births had increased by 27 per cent, accident and emergency attendances by 35 per cent and in-patient admissions by 35 per cent.

Dr Samra said: “The Pilgrim is the least doctored and nursed hospital I have worked in.”

He said Northamptonshire, which has a similar population to Lincolnshire, had 20 per cent more heath care workers. He said Lincolnshire was one of few counties not to have its own medical school and Boston had a problem of recruiting doctors and nurses.

Murray McDonald, Chief Executive of Boston Mayflower, said few migrant workers were social housing tenants, but demand for private rented accommodation made Boston’s one of the most expensive in the country, and was of low quality.

Coun Mike Gilbert, the council’s portfolio holder for housing and community, said action was being taken by the council to licence more houses of multiple occupation and urged that powers be given to local authorities to better control licensing of premises selling alcohol.

Coun Singleton-McGuire said there was also an issue with people who did not pay their council tax. It was difficult to claim the unpaid amounts as those who refused to pay were difficult to trace.

“This hemorrhages money from the council and from honest people who do pay,” he said.

Carol Claire and Maxine Walker, of The Phoenix Family of Schools, told how in 2007 all pupils at Park School were from the UK and now 70 per cent were from other outside. They said ten languages were spoken across the school.

But they said that Eastern European families had a “fantastic work ethic” and Park was a top-performing school.