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Migrant children are 'Bostonians of the future'

Children of migrant workers currently in school will be "new Bostonians" - attached as much to the town as they are to Warsaw, a meeting to discuss immigration has been told.

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, Cllr Peter Bedford, portfolio holder for community development and task and finish group member Cllr 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, Cllr Paul Kenny

And Harris Beider, professor in community cohesion at Coventry University and the Institute of Community Cohesion, told an audience in Boston on Friday: "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.

"People will have the same issues irrespective of the communities they are in - concerns about housing, jobs, health. I am confident you are providing a long-term vision for the town. People have to buy into it."

He added: "People need to feel a part of their community and help to find solutions to issues they are confronting on a daily basis."

Professor Beider attended the meeting with the Labour Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, Chris Williamson. Both are gathering information for generating policy and met with borough and county councillors and guests who have contributed to the borough council's impact of population change report.

Mr Williamson, MP for Derby North, told the council's task and finish group that their report was "a model of good practice".

Professor Beider acknowledged that while some people came only to work and then moved on, most want to make a contribution to local communities and the country as a whole.

Chief Supt Paula Wood said a lot of partnership working was taking place. And Chief Insp Paul Timmins dismissed a claim that migrant workers were responsible for rising crime committed in the area.

He said there had been an eight per cent reduction in crime in the last year - down by 500 offences - and a ten per cent reduction in violent crime. He said fears that migrant workers were responsible for more crime was a perception issue.

He recommended local, informal action to tackle some issues, such as street drinking. In South Holland licensed premises had formed an agreement that they would not sell individual cans of alcoholic drink, reducing the problem of street drinking where many could not afford to buy more than one or two cans at a time.

Cllr Mike Gilbert said one of the actions in Boston had been to tackle hot spots where anti-social behaviour, often fuelled by drink, was an issue. Public seating had been removed to dissuade groups from congregating and he said reports of anti-social behaviour in these areas had been cut by half since last August.

Cllr Gilbert said the Sustainable Communities Act may enable the borough council to draw back controls from Government. As an example he said there could be possibilities for more local control of drinks licences.