Tuesday, 26 May 2015

THIS IS THE FINAL PART of the report on Wisbech and Immigration, put together by Victoria Gillick. The statistical information has been accessed through a series of Freedom of Information requests. The conclusions are Mrs Gillick's own, and you are welcome to agree with them, or disagree - as you see fit.



                         No Work At All
                                                                                                Cambridgeshire is at the back of the educational queue when it comes to government per-pupil funding. Coupled to this, Wisbech state secondary education has been below par for decades. To cap it all, governmental reorganisation in 2006 closed most of the Town's excellent Isle College of Further Education & Horticulture, transferring all its top-quality vocational courses in building construction and design, social care and secretarial studies, farming & animal management, music, art & drama and Sixth Form studies to the college in King's Lynn and to Milton near Cambridge. This perverse decision more or less guaranteed rising levels of youth unemployment in Fenland.....almost 45% by early 2013.37 

So it's good to learn that efforts are at last being made to improve Wisbech school standards, even if  only prompted by the realisation that a growing number of students were East European, whom local food processing companies are literally banking on for their future low-paid workforce.     


                                  Licenced To Swill

East Europeans are well known for liking a drop of the hard stuff. Liking it rather too much, actually. So it was more than somewhat ill-judged of Parliament to free-up our licensing laws just as boatloads of famously hard-drinking Slavs began arriving in Britain. The new Licensing Act came into force in 2005, transferring licence decisions from Magistrates Courts to district councils, which could henceforth allow licensees the option of all-night opening hours. Almost at once, and no doubt for sound commercial reasons, Wisbech became the Fenland town of choice for anyone seeking a late-night drinks licence. And year after year Fenland Council's Licensing Committee was obliged to accommodate these eager new liquor merchants.

Within two years of the Act, street-drinking, anti-social behaviour and drink-fuelled fights had become such a public menace in Wisbech that the police were allowed a temporary Dispersal Order in an attempt to keep the drunkards out of the Town centre. At the same time however, and despite dogged opposition from harassed police chiefs, the Council's Licensing Committee continued to hand out drink licenses to all and sundry, with the predictable result that Wisbech was soon awash with liquor and fast regressing into a crime-ridden, anti-social backwater.

In November 2008 a Designated Public Place Order (DPPO) was imposed, allowing the police to confiscate alcohol from street drinkers. The following year, Cambridgeshire Police were granted £50,000 from the government's Migration Impacts Fund for a Project Worker to deal with "domestic abuse and sexual violence in migrant communities", with alcohol being the usual cause.

By 2012 there were more Off Licenses in Wisbech than in any other town in the area: a total of 54 in all.......20 Pubs, 27 corner shops, five supermarkets and two fast-food take-aways, all selling booze as though the end of the world was nigh.39 Three of the pubs, and all of the smaller premises, had foreign-born licensees, with one take-away open for liquor sales 85 hours a week. 
That year the Police dealt with 100 reports of street drinking, 393 rowdy incidents linked to alcohol, and had made 64 arrests. They had also ordered 54 groups of people to leave the DPPO area, issued 19 fixed penalty fines of £50, and confiscated 183 cans and bottles of alcohol.   
By the year's end the police finally persuaded the Council to adopt a Cumulative Impact Policy (CIP) to restrict the licensing of any more premises within the liquor-saturated Town. Even so, in January 2015 the Council's liberal-minded Licensing Committee chose to ignore the CIP and police protestations, and granted a Town club a licence to sell liquor up to 3am....seven days a week.
But bad cultural habits don't die out, they merely shift their ground. Thus the Baltic culture of outdoor drinking has since migrated to Wisbech's parks, playing fields and roadside verges, which are daily littered with drink cans, bottles, broken glass and food rubbish. Occasionally the police can be seen making early morning foot patrols, peering into bushes in search of drunk and rough-sleeping migrants. Nowadays the Town's alleyways are also being filled with human excrement from these night drinkers. In 2013/14 the Department for Communities & Local Government funded a Fenland Crime Reduction Initiative ('Eastern European Nationals Homelessness Project') whereby migrant 'outreach workers' provided rough-sleepers with information on housing and employment, and how to claim benefits. The cost to the taxpayer for this Initiative: £144,755.41
                       High crime.....Low policing
The influx of thousands of foreign migrants into Fenland was logically bound to send crime figures up. Apart from East European street drinking and gang fights, there's also their propensity for drunk-driving, uninsured driving, having road accidents and then running off, and for carrying knives everywhere.42  Then there's the daily hazard of dodging all their pavement cyclists who make civil life in Wisbech just that little bit more uncivilized.
Foot-patrolling policemen, even PCSOs, are a rarity in Wisbech, hence the risible attempt to deter potential miscreants by leaving cardboard cut-outs of a 1970's copper, replete with tall helmet, standing in shop doorways.

The Fenland Community Safety Partnership's report for 2013 recorded 392 anti-social/violent incidents in Chatteris, 692 in March, 428 in Whittlesey......and 1,554 in Wisbech.
2007-13......... Fenland crimes occurring in Wisbech increased from 46% to 58%
2012-13......... 86.6% of the district's 329 foreign offenders came from Wisbech.      
2012-13......... 26.5% of crimes detected in Wisbech were by foreign nationals.43

Currently two-thirds of locally recorded crimes remain unsolved, so the actual number of foreign criminals in the area is unknown. Also, an offender's nationality is not recorded in every case since the accused can refuse to divulge it, and frequently does so. Official statistics on 'non-UK' crime are therefore incomplete.....i.e. incorrect
                          Unlawfully  killed
Thirty years ago, heinous murder was rare in Fenland. Sadly those more benign days are long gone.  'Homicide and injuries inflicted by another person with intent to injure or kill by any means' is now more frequent in Fenland than anywhere else in Cambridgeshire, and half of them are in Wisbech.   
(1) Cambridge: 21       (2) Huntingdon :15       (3) South Cambridge :13      (4) East Cambridge :13   
(5) Fenland : 22   [11 murdered in Wisbech........four of them were East Europeans]
                         Comes the Reckoning
In December 2009, when London estate agents Strutt & Parker were urging Fenland Council to grant the Co-op permission for 108 mobile homes in which to cram 430 migrant workers, the agent's were in reality pushing against an open door, their raison d'etre being sheer music to the Council's ears: "The use of foreign labour is cost effective, puts minimum strain on local services, and provides a source of revenue into the local economy." 46
Even though the Co-op's grand plan subsequently failed to materialise, the agent's arguments stand as a perfect exemplar of how large multinational companies have contrived with the Council to create and maintain an ultra low-wage economy in the Fens. But after the feast comes the reckoning. As every year passes it must be apparent to our Public Authorities that the stratagem of utilising masses of cheap foreign labour, not so as to augment the local workforce but to replace it, has been both grievously unjust to the Fenland populace, and economically flawed to boot. For whilst undoubtedly benefiting big business and their migrant workforce, it's costing everyone else an arm and a leg.

                          Costing the Country
Nobody knows how much the thousands of migrants in Fenland have cost the public purse so far, as no recipient of 'in-work' state benefits is asked about their nationality, which is plain daft, but it's bound to be a tidy sum. For a start there's the free NHS Medical and Maternity Care and the free School Education and Child Benefits that EU migrants automatically receive, plus the state Pensions for elderly migrants. There's also the Unemployment Benefits for non-working migrants, as well as the extra cost to the Police and the Courts & Prison Service of migrant offenders.
Concomitantly, there is the additional cost of having so many more Fenland people unemployed or on rock-bottom/part time wages and therefore needing a whole raft of Welfare Benefits & Allowances.  Add to that the personal and social cost of family breakdown and chronic physical and mental health, brought about by years of economic inactivity and poor living standards.
Being jobless or low waged is assuredly less painful in Britain that in Lithuania, Latvia or Poland, where unemployment benefit is only granted after a qualifying period of 12-18 months, and housing benefit is non-existent. What sensible EU migrant, therefore, when their seasonal job in Fenland comes to an end, wouldn't want to collect £71.70 a week Jobseekers Allowance? Or if lodged in a cramped and over-priced Wisbech multi-let, what badly paid migrant would pass up their entitlement to £89.74 a week in Housing Benefit?  It's an obvious no-brainer.
In 2013/14 all but 5% of national Income Tax was derived from PAYE receipts.
Since 2002/03 these receipts have risen by 35%, from £99.7 billion to £134.7 billion per year.
However, although UK's tax-paying migrants have undoubtedly contributed towards this increase, their annual wages in areas like Fenland are commonly below the PAYE Income Tax threshold (£10,000), hence the permanent posters at local recruitment agencies urging workers to "Claim your TAX back here". HMRC offices even deal with gangmasters claiming tax back on behalf of their entire foreign workforce. Between 2001-2007 Income Tax Repayments averaged £1.9 billion per year. In the six years since then the average has risen by almost 48% to £2.8 billion.  

In 2003 the introduction of Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit cost £3.9 billion. Five years later, policy changes increased the number of families entitled to tax credits, pushing the bill for 2008 to £5.6 billion. Since 2010 however, various post-recession policies, including a reduction in the upper income level and the removal of the second income threshold, have caused the annual costs of these Credits to fall by over 40%.47

                                     Costing the County  

County Council funding was needed to enlarge Wisbech's Peckover Primary School for an extra 120 places. An even bigger extension was built on the Orchards Infants, where already over half its 420 pupils are East European, ahead of a projected 50% increase in numbers by 2016. Temporary classrooms for 30 extra places have also had to be installed at Elm Primary and Nene Infant School.

By 2018 Lincolnshire's migrant-filled secondary schools will be unable to offer any more places to the hundreds of Wisbech children currently choosing to be schooled out of county, leaving Cambridgeshire facing a massive future bill for a whole new Secondary School in Fenland.48 

                          Impoverishing Wisbech
Imagine a flourishing English market town, most of its stable working population earning decent wages in regular full-time employment, spending locally and paying the tax man his full dues. Wisbech, alas, is no such happy valley. Its new foreign workforce is transitory, their poorly paid jobs intermittent, and their earnings and state benefits divided between here and abroad, while any amount of tax is claimed back annually. A Town where off-licenses and multinational industries thrive, yet its people remain impoverished. Fenland Council recently summed it up thus: 'Relative to other towns in Fenland, Wisbech suffers higher levels of deprivation, lower levels of disposable income, and higher levels of residents on benefits, and is characterised by comparatively low skills levels, poor educational attainment and worklessness' 56
Cynical officialdom might sneer and say "it was ever thus" in Wisbech, the inference being that local people were the architects of their own misfortune. This couldn't be more untrue or unjust. Their impoverishment has come about, not because of what Wisbechians have failed to do for themselves, but because of the indifference, neglect and crass misjudgements of their Public Authorities, most critically in regard to their education, social environment and employment.
Only consider how Wisbech has been fleeced by these Public Authorities in recent decades, stripped bit-by-bit of so much that had formerly underpinned its urban status, cohesion and growth. It began in the early 1980s when the Authorities shrunk the Town's Hospital and closed the Maternity Unit. Then political ideology curtailed the Assisted Places Scheme which had enabled hundreds of less affluent Wisbech children to attend the Town's well-renowned independent Grammar School, so that nowadays only 4 local children enter the School each year, and none of their families is needy. Meanwhile the Town's failing Secondary School has been rebuilt twice, renamed three times, and placed in 'special measures' more than once during its recent multilingual past; which is quite probably why more than half its potential intake now prefer to be schooled elsewhere. Then in 2006, just when local youngsters needed it most, the Authorities shrunk their College of Further Education to almost nothing, only to rebuild it for £7.2m eight years later. This has, of course, nothing whatever to do with the huge £5.6m office block the Cambridge Authorities have built for themselves on part of the site, to house their myriad technocrats and local Social Services staff.
Hollowing out urban centres being de rigueur in the 1990s, the local Authority pedestrianised the Town Centre, while simultaneously sanctioning a mile-out-of-town Retail Park for a huge Tesco superstore and other multinationals. With its commercial heart thus by-passed, footfall in Wisbech reduced by half, leading to more shop closures and dereliction, and even fewer shoppers. Howbeit, a shiny new pawnbrokers has recently set up shop in the Market Square....bless. The same Authority has since overseen an even bigger and further-out-of-town Retail Park for a truly massive Tesco replete with fitness centre, several more big-name retailers, a giant multi-screen cinema and nearby housing estates: a satellite town in fact. Local Authorities also dismantled the Town's busy working Port, replacing it with a static marina and their own grandiose 'Boathouse Conference Centre', while downsizing their public Council Offices to a 'One Stop Shop'. Latterly the Main Post Office has been transferred to the back of a nearby gift shop, and both local Newspapers have decamped to other towns. Public Authorities have taken the Driving Test Centre away, as also the Magistrates Court & Custody Suite, leaving the adjoining Police Station, its opening hours already greatly reduced, in limbo after selling the entire premises to a property developer.
Having trashed their education and social infrastructure, the Authorities had no objection to the Townspeople's employment opportunities being wrecked as well, the overriding concern being to ensure the economic well-being of the business and farming fraternity, even if this meant transforming Wisbech into little more than a dormitory for thousands of indigent foreign workers.
If Wisbechians sense that the Town in which their forbears have lived for generations has lost its identity and doesn't belong to them any more, and that nobody in Authority gives a damn what they think or feel about it.......are they wrong?
1               Office of National Statistics, (ONS)Censuses 1981-2001
2   Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys, Population  Estimates,1985 and  Population Trends 1990
3              'Young People and the Labour Market, A Challenge of the 1990s'   National Economic Development Office and 
                  Training Commission (11.7.1988)     
4               Oxford Migration Observatory Unit, reported in The Sunday Telegraph  (11 May 2014)
5               ONS  2011 Census, Country of Birth, Table QS203EW
6               ONS (NOMIS) 2011 Census, Country of birth by ethnic group,  Table LC2205EW
7   Fenland District Council (F.D.C.)  Fenland Migrant Population Strategy 2007-2010, Sept 2007
8     F.D.C.  (Oct. 2013)  Fenland Diverse Communities Forum, Community Cohesion, Strategy Statement
9     Migration Impacts Fund,  Department for Communities and Local Government  (F.O.I. 30.10.13)
10   Rogue Landlords Fund,  Department for Communities and Local Government  (Jan. 2014)  
11 Cambridgeshire County Council (30.8.13) Migrant Impact Fund
12   Fenland District Council   (Sept 2007)  Fenland Migration Population Strategy 2007-2010
13   ONS Censuses 1961-91
15 Cambridgeshire County Council  (Oct. 2013) Cambridgeshire Population and Dwelling Stock Estimates: mid-2012 
16   F.D.C   Fenland Index of Multiple Deprivation 2010
17 Wisbech Standard (21.10.05) 'A quarter of Wisbech is made up of  foreign migrant workers'
18   Mott MacDonald, March 2014  'Wider Economic benefits of a Rail Service between March and Wisbech'
14   ONS (NOMIS) 2011 Census, Country of birth by ethnic group,  Table LC2205EW
19   Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn. Maternities and Terminations 2006-11
20   NHS General Practitioner Registration data for Wisbech, July 2013
21   Cambridgeshire County Council, Fenland Schools 2006-14 
22   F.D.C.  Fenland Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 2010
23   Cambridgeshire County Council  Primary & Infant Schools in Wisbech  (10 July 2014)
24   Cambridgeshire County Council  Review of Secondary Education in Fenland  (Feb 2014)
25   Wikipedia Healthcare in Europe 29 May 2013
26   F.D.C.  Fenland Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 2010
27   Practice Managers (May/July 2012) : Trinty Surgery, North Brink Surgery, Clarkson Surgery
28   NHS Cambridgeshire Community Services:  North Cambs Hospital Staffing and Admissions, April 2010-Oct 2012
29   F.D.C.  (24 July 2013)
30   Police Insp. Robin Sissons quoted in the Wisbech Standard 7 June 2013
30   Wisbech Stanard report: 'Operation Pheasant wins national award'  20 March 2015
31   F.D.C.  (21 May 2012,  10 July 2013,  17 Feb 2015)
                   F.D.C. Cabinet Review of the Council's Letting Policy, (20 December 2012)   
41 Department for Communities & Local Government (27 Nov. 2014)
32   F.D.C.  Fenland Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 2010
33   Worker's pay slip from HL Foods, Sutton (8.8.1998) 
34   Worker's pay slip from  Pinguin Foods UK Ltd, Wisbech  (20.5.2008)
35   Wisbech Standard 4 Dec '09 : 'Co-op plans major fresh fruit farm'
36   Research institute, Centre for Cities, reported in The Times (Job News) (16 March 2009)
37   ONS  Annual Population Survey  (Unemployment level/rate among 16 -24s, in Fenland local authority, 2006-2013)
38   F.D.C. (19.12 2012) Wisbech Cumulative Impact Zone
39   F.D.C.  Licensing Officer  (8.1.13)
41   Department for Communities & Local Government (27 Nov. 2014)
42   F. D.C.  Migrant Population Strategy 2007-2010 , (Sept 2007)
43   Cambridgeshire Constabulary.  (15 July 2013)
44   Ibid
45   Cambridgeshire Constabulary,   (21 August 2013)
                   ONS:  (Table 1  Deaths by assault, Cambridgeshire)  (4 February 2014)
46 Wisbech Standard, 4 Dec '09 : 'Co-op plans major fresh fruit farm' (Neil Culkin, Head of Planning, Strutt & Parker)
47   HM Revenue & Customs, National Statistics  (19.12.2014)
48   Cambridgeshire County Council, Children & Young People's Services: 'Education Provision in Wisbech' 17.4.13
49   Cambridgeshire County Council (6.6.14 / 10.7.14)
50   Cambridgeshire County Council  (21.5.2012)
52   FDC 6 January 2015
51   Cambridgeshire County Council : Written Answer 14 Oct 2014
53   Cambridgeshire Constabulary   (21 August 2013)
54   Ministry of Justice   (27 March 2014)
55   F.D.C.  (16 October 2013)
56   F.D.C. Neighbourhood Planning Vision (2011), and Core Strategy (2012)