I really can’t be the only person locally with mixed feelings about the latest Office of National Statistics figures showing Peterborough with the highest fertility rates in the UK and big population increase projections in the coming years.
A combination of higher birth rates of Pakistani heritage families, 11 years of unrestricted migration of (generally low skilled) EU migrants and unsustainable housing targets set by the city council, (yes 25,000 new homes in 17 years!) have provided local politicians and public services professionals with massive challenges in housing, healthcare and school places - and other key areas. And that’s not to mention our ageing population too.
The current refugee crisis too is having a big and unseen impact. Whatever number of Syrian refugees Peterborough City Council chooses to accept – and in my opinion the number should be (in extremis) in the low teens and be focused on orphaned children from persecuted minorities direct from the Syrian conflict and not continental Europe – the local authority is, as we speak, still every month bearing the cost of new cases of unaccompanied children from across the globe, for which it is legally responsible – and that means local taxpayers.
There is no evidence but anecdote that large scale mass migration has been good for Peterborough (though it may have been) but some evidence that it has had a negative impact. The reason that the city council is pushing ahead with its (delayed) Selective Licensing scheme is because large tracts of the central part of the city have degenerated as a result of the activities of slum landlords, overcrowding and a minority of poor, anti-social and criminal tenants.
Wages for unskilled workers have been driven down by unscrupulous employers and inevitably school results have been impacted by the transitory nature and churn of so many pupils and the fact that English is not the first language (that’s the case for two thirds of primary school pupils in my own constituency).
In short, Peterborough needs a break and a breathing space – the focus should be on quality of life, controlled immigration and on sustainable immigration: people with skills, who accept our British traditions and who want to make a permanent life for them and their families in our city. No translation and interpretation spending, no handouts without contributions, social housing or other welfare largesse.
It’s on this basis that David Cameron’s negotiations for our relationship with the European Union – to be voted on in a referendum in this Parliament – will be undertaken. Even the Germans, who not so long ago lectured us on the sanctity of “free movement”, have been forced to break their own EU rules in the face of the migrant crisis.
The urgency of that crisis means we must now distinguish between economic migrants and refugees.
British people are decent, pragmatic and compassionate but they’re not fools and they ultimately must be the best judges of who comes to our country and on what basis.