OVER THE LAST TWO DECADES, one of Wisbech's most ardent campaigners has been Victoria Gillick. Here is PART FOUR of her report on the effects of immigration on Wisbech.
I make no claim over the accuracy of the statistics, and I neither endorse or refute her personal conclusions. The report is long and detailed, so it will be published in sections over the next week or so. I have put statistical information in blue font. The remainder are Mrs Gillick's own views. YOUR VIEWS ARE WELCOME, both for and against, and you can make them known via the contact form at the bottom of the blog, or via Twitter - https://twitter.com/wisbechevenmore
The background story
Wisbech Urban Area consists of the Town itself and the nearby villages of Emneth, Friday Bridge, Elm, Parson Drove, Wisbech St Mary, Gorefield and Leverington. Forty years ago this rural area was blessed with an unusually homogeneous population of 17,015 which grew steadily during the 1970s to reach 22,930 by 1981, fruitfully replenished by a third more 20-35 year-olds than two decades earlier.13
By 1991 the population of Wisbech and its villages had risen by a further two thousand to 24,981, the Town's schools, shops and rural economy having been boosted during the 1980s by hosts of incoming young families, drawn to the area's affordable homes and plentiful jobs, and also by older folk seeking a blissful haven from the rat race of the big cities. A year after the Millennium festivities, the population had reached 28,380, and the age balance was looking pretty healthy.
With the passing of the Millennium the whole social landscape of Wisbech altered, as it found itself the epicentre of an unprecedented wave of foreign settlers, though how many had come here was anybody's guess. The 2011 Census had the population of Wisbech Built Up Area (the Town and its villages) rising by 4,109 over the decade, up from 28,380 to 32,489. This figure included all the East European migrants, whose total was said to be a mere 3,289, with the main age group of working migrants, 25-34 year-olds, numbering only 1,241. Utter nonsense of course; there were obviously many thousands more than this. Nevertheless this seriously flawed Census continues to be quoted by public authorities and lazy university academics even today.
Cambridge University researchers evidently made no effort to visit the Town before compiling their £20,000 report for the County Council in March 2014 ('Economic analysis of the Wisbech travel to work area'). Instead they simply quoted the nonsensical 2011 Census statistics on employment in Wisbech, which had just 718 residents working in agriculture, and 1,758 in food manufacturing.
Meanwhile, take a walk through Wisbech any day of the week and the real state of affairs becomes only too glaringly apparent. As long ago as 2005 a local Estate Agent reported the cheerful news that a quarter of the Town was now made up of East Europeans.17 In other words, the Town's former population of around 20,200 had been swelled by almost 7,000 foreigners.
The truth was out at last: the Town's migrant workers had numbered around 8,000 in 2011. On top of that figure, however, one must add the many non-working migrants (children, pensioners and unemployed) plus all those arriving here since the Census. Taken all together, the current population of the Town is therefore nearer 33,000, a third of whom are foreign migrants.
Wisbech has thus grown by 63% in the last 13 years, with the proportion of East Europeans rising inexorably year on year.
The 2011 Census could at least be trusted on its figures for the indigenous population. These revealed that since 2001 the number of local people in Wisbech and its villages had actually fallen by 580, to 27,791. The decrease was largely due to a thousand fewer 25-34 year-olds (those born in the 'baby-bust' years of the mid-1970s and 80s). At the same time there has also been a steady exodus of skilled and unskilled young adults quitting the Fens in search of jobs and homes elsewhere. The loss of so many local men and women in their 'parenthood' years has inevitably meant less Wisbechian babies too, hence almost 500 fewer under-16s than a decade earlier.