Election 2015 England

General Election 2015: Is Peterborough an integrated city?

Lincoln Road, Peterborough Image copyright Google
Image caption The cultural mix in Peterborough is no better highlighted than on Lincoln Road

UKIP leader Nigel Farage labelled Peterborough a city where ethnic communities have failed to integrate, with school children from different backgrounds not playing on the streets together, in a BBC Radio 4 interview. What are the city's election candidates' views on immigration?

Stewart Jackson, Conservative

Image copyright BBC Photoshot

Mr Jackson, who has been Peterborough's MP for 10 years, said he believed Mr Farage's comments were "ill-judged", "inaccurate" and "made off the top of his head under pressure".

"In my experience there are places in the east of England where integration is an issue, but Peterborough is not in that category," he said.

"In our primary schools you see a great deal of integration.

"Most eastern Europeans who come to Peterborough are law-abiding and are simply making life better for themselves."

He said Peterborough had traditionally "got on well" as a mixed community, citing when the first migrants arrived in the city from Ireland, Italy and Pakistan decades ago.

To improve integration further, he said he wanted to create a centre of excellence so young children could "get up to speed in English as quickly as possible".

He said evidence showed take-up of subjects such as maths and science by eastern European children was high once English was grasped, and he hoped that would help push Peterborough up the school league tables.

Darren Bisby-Boyd, Green Party

Image copyright Darren Bisby-Boyd

Mr Bisby-Boyd said politicians needed to stop making "flippant" comments about immigration and instead make "positive suggestions".

"You can close the borders tomorrow, there's still immigrants here," he said.

"I've worked a lot with eastern European families in Peterborough, most are working and are paying their way."

He said previously deprived areas such as Lincoln Road in the 1990s were now prospering through immigration, with many foreign workers opening businesses.

And he said in Cambridge immigration was never raised as an issue, because many foreign workers were being employed in highly skilled jobs.

"There's been very few things done to integrate communities [in Peterborough].

"I need to listen to people's concerns and invest in communities that feel pressure on them. We all need somewhere decent and safe to live."

Peterborough population

Image copyright Julian Dowse
  • Population of 183,631 in 2011 - a rise of 17.7% since 2001
  • Net in-migration to Peterborough of approximately 14,670 residents between 2007 and 2013
  • 76.5% of people in Peterborough were born in England
  • 7.7% of people were born in EU Accession countries, which entered after April 2001
  • 71% of people class themselves as White British
  • 10% of people class themselves as White Other
  • 6.6% of people class themselves as Pakistani
  • 2.5% of people class themselves as Indian

Sources: Cambridgeshire County Council, Peterborough City Council, Office for National Statistics

Lisa Forbes, Labour

Image copyright Lisa Forbes

Ms Forbes said her children regularly played with people of all backgrounds in Peterborough.

"It's not immigration that's causing children to stay inside - it's things like PlayStations, and the amount of cars on our streets is a big factor.

"I'm not saying there are not concerns about immigration, often it depends which generation you speak to.

"The older generations that have seen the change feel like it's a different place to the one they grew up in.

"We can't force people to integrate but integration is happening naturally as time goes on."

Ms Forbes said more houses needed to be built and more school places created but said migration had kept the local economy afloat and denied the rapid growth of the city was unsustainable.

"Peterborough is one of the fastest growing cities and it has always been developing. There's plenty of scope for more development."

Darren Fower, Liberal Democrat

Image copyright Darren Fower

Mr Fower said immigration had been good for Peterborough.

"Peterborough for decades has benefited from immigration. We need immigrants to strengthen the local economy," he said.

"Having a multicultural society is a massive strength and forces people to become more informed and educated about one another.

"I think there is segregation, but lets talk about class - there's areas in Peterborough where the rich live and where the poor live.

"We all know there are problems - but they're sociological, not exclusive to ethnicity."

He said problems with the city's creaking infrastructure were mostly down to poor decisions from previous local administrations, and believed immigrants were being used as scapegoats.

"I think people are being put off by this cheap standard of politics, blaming the weaker sections of society," said Mr Fower.

Tom Barton, political correspondent, BBC Look East

Image copyright dave hitchborne

There's no doubt some places, like Peterborough, have seen the arrival of significant numbers of migrants. But do those who live there accept Nigel Farage's assertion that people from different nationalities are badly integrated?

One young British-Asian woman in the city told me that people from different groups lead different lives, while another local felt that the various communities don't socialise together.

But others disagreed. An eastern European man said he had friends from across the spectrum.

And one young British man summed up his view of cross-community relations perfectly: "My girlfriend is eastern European."

Mary Herdman, UKIP

Image copyright Mary Herdman

Ms Herdman said since the Soham murders in Cambridgeshire parents had become more frightened about their children playing anywhere.

"UKIP doesn't have a problem with immigration, we welcome immigration, but we cannot let everybody in - we are a very small island," said Ms Herdman.

"Both Labour and the Conservatives only jumped on the immigration bandwagon when UKIP came along, even though Peterborough has been suffering by the amount of people coming in.

"The infrastructure in Peterborough cannot cope - the hospital, the schools, we need more and more housing.

"I don't have a problem with communities myself, it's a security system for immigrants and over time it will disintegrate. Their children are all mixing at school.

"I would encourage people to move out of their communities, to learn the language better and to mix with the British people."

Ms Herdman said immigrants provided a cheap source of labour in the Fens and believed changes to the welfare system would mean British people who were just "work-shy" would be forced into working in the same agricultural jobs.

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