MP Malcolm Moss has said the area is on the brink of immigration meltdown and warned that communities will suffer if the influx of foreign workers continues unabated. But the North-East Cambridgeshire MP s views have already prompted strong criticism from
MP Malcolm Moss has said the area is on the brink of immigration meltdown and warned that communities will suffer if the influx of foreign workers continues unabated.
But the North-East Cambridgeshire MP's views have already prompted strong criticism from officials, who have called for greater understanding of migrant workers and the benefits they bring to the local economy.
The immigration debate intensified last week when a Home Office report revealed that 65,000 people from new European Union member states now work in East Anglia - 2,372 of whom are working in East Cambridgeshire.
"If you listen to what people are saying on the streets, the repeated comment is 'enough is enough'," said Mr Moss, whose constituency includes Littleport, Mepal, Witcham and Coveney.
"Local people will only stand so much - it would be foolish and irresponsible of politicians to ignore these comments."
Primarily from Poland and Lithuania, many workers from the A8 group of accession states have found temporary agricultural or driving work across the district since 2004.
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Now Mr Moss has joined fellow Conservative ministers in calling for tighter controls on the entry of workers when Bulgaria and Romania join the European Union in 2007.
"People coming to my surgeries are complaining that they cannot get jobs because the labour market for our local factories is controlled by gang masters, who favour - along with the managers it should be said - migrant workers."
He said constituents have also said they are being priced out of privately rented accommodation.
"Tensions are already surfacing with the existing situation," he said.
"There needs to be a full recognition of the difficulties faced by local authorities and the police and additional resources required - local council tax payers should not have to foot the bill."
The deputy chief executive of East Cambridgeshire District Council, Cecillia Tredget, warned against the dangers of misunderstanding the situation of former Eastern Bloc workers, many of whom stay in Britain for around six months before returning home.
"We understand there is a lot of concern but a lot of it is based on misinformation - there is no deluge," she said, adding that a recent report from the East of England Regional Assembly found that workers from the accession states are worth more than £360m in taxes to the regional economy.
"I head up community safety here and we have not picked up on tensions in the community as an issue - it's something that's simply not happening as far as we can see."
She said the only people eligible for access to publicly-funded housing need to have paid taxes and national insurance continuously for at least one year before they qualify.
"It's a myth in East Cambridgeshire that these people are getting housing in front of local people," she said, adding that the authority's points system favours people with connections to the district.
"Only four per cent of cases rehoused by the council last year were foreign nationals; significantly, in March 2006, 2000 people were waiting for housing, 16 of which were Polish nationals.
"There is an acceptance that migrant workers contribute an awful lot to our country."
MP for South-East Cambridgeshire, who has dedicated this week's Ely Standard column to the immigration subject, said: "Legal migrants benefit the local economy - particularly the agricultural sector - but migration must be controlled on the basis of labour market needs to ensure that skills gaps can be met and public services and housing infrastructure can cope."
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Are you an employer who has taken on migrant workers, if so, what has your experience been? Do migrant workers bring benefits to the local ecomony? Let us know what you think.
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