Thursday, 16 February 2012


One of the mantras from those who take a totally negative view of the presence of migrants in Wisbech goes something like, ”They come over here, take over our shops, ruin our town ....” At first glance here does seem to be a disproportionate number of foreign-run shops, whether or not you accept the claim that over 30% of the town’s population are migrants.

Let’s have a closer look at this; firstly, it is highly unlikely that the people managing these shops have bought them. They will be leasing them from, I would argue, owners who, if not local, are at least UK nationals. But who are the owners? That information is, technically in the public domain, but can only be extracted from the Land Registry for a fee. If there is anyone out there who has a contract with the Land Registry, and could do a few ‘pro bono’ searches for me, then I would be extremely grateful.

Also remember that shops selling alcohol need to have a license to do so. Before 2003, licenses were granted by magistrates, but since then, it has been up to the local Council to grant alcohol licenses, and Fenland seems to have a very generous view of how much alcohol needs to be sold in Wisbech  town centre. There have been recent cases where they have ignored the advice of the police, and granted or extended licenses.

"We don’t need another car-wash/24/7 boozer...” is the cry. Well, the one thing about commerce is that it is totally blind. If shops and businesses are trading well, then they will stay open. If it is losing money, then it will close. Whether or not these various migrant-centred businesses are all operating within the law, then that is another question. Older readers will remember a friendly, locally run TOTAL service station on Chapel Road. It closed years ago, stood empty for ages, and is now a hand car-wash, which appears to be doing well enough. Is anyone official asking the right questions there?
  • Are the blokes who work there in all weathers legal migrants?
  • Are they being paid the minimum wage?
  • Are the managers complying with tough waste-disposal and anti-pollution regulations?

I am a great supporter of local blogs and websites, and direct you to another one today. It seems to be the sister page of ‘Wisbech....Oh Dear’, but even with my basic Lithuanian, it does seem to have a number of adverts advertising cheap rolling tobacco. Is all this legal, or might it be brought in on some of the many minibus runs also profusely advertised on the page? I couldn’t possibly comment!

TO FINISH FOR THIS EVENING I do have some genuinely cheerful news. With a little help from The Fenland Citizen, I can report that a crack team of troubleshooters and experts has been assembled to help guide Wisbech out of the doldrums towards a bright shining future. Bon Nuit, mes enfants....