Scale of immigration could encourage extremism, says council leader

Baltic Food and Romanian Shop in Boston
Image caption The changing cultural make up of Boston has seen a rise in eastern European shops springing up around the town

Extremism will be encouraged if more is not done to address concerns over immigration levels in Lincolnshire, the county council leader has said.

Conservative Martin Hill said people in some parts of the county believed there were too many migrants.

"That's not my personal view but in certain places people say they feel threatened," he said.

John Hough, Labour leader, said the council should be more positive. UKIP said there were too many migrants.

UKIP took 16 seats off the Conservatives in May's local elections and is now the second largest party on Lincolnshire County Council, which is run by a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition.

Mr Hill said: "We need migration but there is an issue about scale and numbers."

'Wrong message'

Image caption Martin Hill said places like Boston relied on migrant workers

"People come and work and employers to some extent rely on people coming in from elsewhere - particularly in places like Boston.

However, he added: "There are genuine concerns and it's no good politicians pretending they are not there.

"I do think it is right it is discussed, otherwise you just get extremists demonstrating like they did in Lincoln, and we don't want that.

"If you lived on a street in Boston and nearly all of the street is occupied by people from eastern Europe you'd probably feel a little bit concerned about that.

"We are a very tolerant nation but when these things happen very quickly it can raise concerns."

Of the 64,000 people now living in the Boston area, about 12% were born in EU countries other than the UK.

However, Mr Hough said talking about migrant workers as a problem would only increase tensions.

"To say somehow that we are overwhelmed is the wrong message," he said.

He said many migrant workers filled positions in Lincolnshire's low-wage economy, while others made up the shortfall in the number of doctors and dentists in the county.

He added that migrant workers also brought value to the cultural diversity of Lincolnshire.

"It is totally unacceptable to close-up shop," he said.

UKIP's newly elected county councillor for Wainfleet and Burgh, Chris Pain, said people in Boston had voted for the party because "local society has changed beyond all recognition.

"They are saying 'enough is enough'. They are not happy about it."

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