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Population change report scrutinised and approved

One of the most detailed, in-depth and comprehensive documents to investigate modern-day population change has received general approval after two-and-a-half hours of scrutiny by councillors and public.

The 28 recommendations in the report prepared by a Boston Borough Council task and finish group remained largely intact with one councillor describing it as the best piece of work he had seen ever to come out of the council.

Task and finish group chairman, Cllr Paul Kenny, presents Glenis Willmott,  Labour's leader in the European Parliament and an MEP for the East Midlands, with a copy of the report.

Members of the council's task and finish group will now take the draft report away to consider any necessary additions, deletions and amendments suggested by the overview and scrutiny committee and members of the public who attended Thursday's meeting (October 18).

Despite previous consultation and the open-house session Cllr Paul Kenny, chairman of the group and the committee, declared that he was still open to comments on the report and its wide-ranging recommendations and agreed to include dissenting observations in a special addendum in order to reflect all views and opinions.

The report will go before the council's Cabinet on November 7 and then to full council for approval on November 19 before being distributed to interested and influential parties at local, regional, national and international level.

Each of the report's 28 recommendations were read to the meeting and most discussed in detail with suggestions for some modifications put by some members of the task and finish group, members of the committee, other councillors attending the meeting and the public.

Mr Rob Lauberts raised issues on behalf of the Boston Good Relations Group, and Mr Bob McAuley, a member of the Boston Protest March Group, also came to the table.

Both had concerns around when some of the recommendations would be actioned, what resources would be available to achieve their aims, how they would be monitored and who would pay for some of the initiatives.

Written comments were also received from the public, the Alchemy Project and Hilary Benn MP, shadow secretary of state for local government and communities, who commented that the report was "impressive - honest, balanced and a commendable attempt to deal with the tensions that I know there have been locally because of the pace and scale of the changes that Boston has experienced".

The Boston Good Relations Group wanted to see tougher action over anti-social behaviour related to street drinking, a timescale for action requested from MP Mark Simmonds, a higher profile for information to help exploited workers to report rogue gangmasters and work with the media to show Boston in a more "balanced" light.

Mr McAuley wanted to see extra funding for education of migrant children met from EU budgets. He questioned how realistic it was to promote West Street as a welcoming and diverse shopping experience.

Introducing the report Cllr Mike Gilbert, portfolio holder for communities and a member of the task and finish group, said it had attempted to look at reasons for tensions, not apportion blame and come up with realistic recommendations.

Cllr Richard Austin said all partner agencies affected by the recommendations needed to be asked whether they were feasible, how they would be tackled and when. Progress was important, he said, and the report should never be allowed to gather dust on a shelf.

Cllr Paul Goodale, at the meeting as an observer, congratulated the group for producing the report and for coming up with 28 recommendations on which there appeared to be some consensus. He said it was the best piece of work he had seen come out of the council since he had been involved with it.