Christine Sexton, Echo, November 14, 2011
An outspoken councillor claims white British people are being ignored as a result of the efforts to help Southend’s ethnic minorities.
Ian Robertson, a Tory councillor for Chalkwell, fears “ghettos” will be created due to the emphasis on aiding ethnic groups.
He made his point after hearing a talk by community activist John Barber, at the latest meeting of the Chalkwell Ward Residents’ Association.
Mr Barber, from Southend Community in Harmony, revealed how ethnic minority groups had more than doubled in Southend since 2001–and these communities needed more help and guidance.
He said: “I have worked for Turning Tides which helps the disadvantaged in wards like Milton, Kursaal and Victoria.
“We tried to energise and lift up the community.
“One thing we realised was we need a more powerful Zimbabwe community association in the town to address issues they face.
“Some are asylum seekers and some are economic migrants.
“They face issues of cultural adaptation and issues of trauma. We encourage them so they can find the appropriate means of rectifying these situations.”
He added how a study looking at the ethnicity of school children strongly suggested numbers from overseas were “growing year on year”.
However Mr Robertson questioned whether groups, such as Mr Barber’s, were actually doing enough to help the indigenous population–and they could, in fact, be making matters worse by isolating ethnic minorities.
He said: “You haven’t once mentioned the British community.
“I am concerned we have to be very careful not to create little ghettos. I am concerned we are going to lose focus on the British community.”
Mr Barber replied by saying the majority of homeless people in Southend were white British who received just as much help from community groups.
He added: “The Zimbabwean community very much wants to engage in all society, and, in fact, they want to help and support us, not the other way round.”
Earlier Mr Barber had told the meeting how a latest study estimated that in 2001 just seven per cent of the Southend population was ethnic, compared to between 14 and 16 per cent now.
He said: “What we are finding in recent years is the population in Southend is increasing because of an influx of Eastern Europeans, particularly the Polish who could number as many as 2,000 along with other Europeans.
“We also have a Fillipino population, many of whom were recruited by Southend Hospital and besides them we also have people from every part of Africa, particularly Zimbabwe.”