Harmonious Relations in Ealing

by Nigel Bakhai on 3 April, 2012

Please find below a copy of the text of my speech to the April 2012 council meeting regarding the comments made by Councillor Dennehy on the issues of Southall and immigration on his website:-

Mr Mayor, I move the amendment in my name.

As a life-long liberal who believes in freedom of speech it gives me no pleasure that I rise to speak today to object to the comments made by Councillor Dennehy in the article posted on his website. We in the Lib Dem group are opposed to the sweeping generalisations he makes about Southall and the unfair character assassination he alleges on the Asian and other immigrant communities who live there.

Cllr Dennehy begins his posting by defending the Conservative Group Leader Councillor David Millican in raising the subject of immigration in his budget speech and I have to take issue with Cllr Millican in sparking this debate by blaming all the problems of the council on “uncontrolled immigration” of the last Labour Government in increasing demand for school places. I can only assume he was referring to the influx of Polish and other workers from Eastern Europe following accession to the EU in 2004. A report by UCL in 2009 showed that immigrants from the eight Central and Eastern European countries that joined the European Union in May 2004 are 60% less likely than UK born citizens to receive state benefits or tax credits, and to live in social housing. These immigrants also paid 37% more in direct or indirect taxes than was spent on public goods and services which they received. Indeed these economic migrants are net contributors to the public finances and it should be welcomed that these people want to stay in Ealing.

Cllr Dennehy then talks in his article about the cost of illegal immigration, their children and the cost to the council by way of spending on school places. Does he not know the difference between legal and illegal immigration? And furthermore, that if you are an illegal immigrant that you are unlikely to be known to the authorities and even less likely to have your children registered at a local school!

In his blog Cllr Dennehy states that he believes Britain is fast becoming a second rate nation and derides against the culture of the UK in what he calls welcoming and encouraging “primitive behaviours “ such as forced marriage, genital mutilation or honour killings. As Cllr Dheer says, I’m not aware that Cllr Dennehy has any evidence that these practices are widespread in Southall, which seems to be the main target of his rant. Instead of focusing on the positive aspects of immigration and the Asian community like, for example the aptitude for hard work, an entrepreneurial spirit and strong family bonds, Cllr Dennehy focuses on the worst, negative aspects of a small minority.

We in the Lib Dem group believe that the UK has benefitted from immigration throughout its history and that the multiculturalism which Cllr Dennehy seemingly denigrates is one of the best aspects about Ealing with so many communities from all over the globe living side by side in harmony sharing and enriching our culture. We benefit from the skills which immigrants bring and many of our national and local services like the NHS would not function without the large numbers of nurses and doctors who have come to this country. One aspect which is to be admired in this chamber and in the Ealing Labour Party in particular is the numbers of members present from all ethnic communities representing the diverse wider community of Ealing.

Cllr Dennehy asserts that criminality is endemic in Southall. However, a recent report to Overview & Scrutiny Committee showed the success of the Safer Southall Project in tackling many of the issues of crime in the Southall area. Significant progress has been made in dealing with the street prostitution problem. Reports of Anti Social Behaviour have fallen by 20% (330 calls) between last August and Feb 2012. Total crime has fallen in Southall Green and Southall Broadway wards year to date by 4.8% and 9.8% respectively. The report noted that Southall Bet Watch has resulted in 5% reduction in crimes in Southall betting shops. The council is also taking action with regard to the beds in sheds issue.

Cllr Dennehy writes that he believes Southall is a constant strain on the public purse in Ealing. We in the Lib Dem group do not support the council’s proposals for a new car park in Southall but we welcome much of the investment that the area badly needs which the council is planning in conjunction with the London Mayor’s Outer London fund. Regeneration is long overdue after years of neglect from councils and governments of both parties. It is time to restore a sense of civic pride back into Southall and it is the duty of councillors to talk up Ealing not put one area or one community against another. It is also the duty of councillors, as our amendment states, to treat our residents, businesses and communities with respect, and that is why we are calling on Cllr Dennehy to apologize to the people of Southall for the inflammatory words on his website.

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