City councillors join together in bid to tackle race hate

Coun David Smith.
Coun David Smith.

City councillors have joined forces in a bid to tackle race crime after a rise in the number of incidents in the wake of the EU referendum.

Councillors revealed several anecdotal reports of verbal racial abuse at Wednesday’s full council meeting.

They included:

* A Polish woman in tears after she and her family were subjected to verbal abuse in the street

* A Polish man told in work the morning after the referendum that they thought he would have gone back to Poland

* A young Polish girl having “out” scratched into her desk at school

Coun David Smith, the Labour group’s cabinet member for community safety, clean and green, and chair of the Lancaster District Community Safety Partnership, said there had been ‘four or five’ reported incidents in the week after the EU referendum, while many other verbal incidents went unreported.

“Since the referendum there has been a 400 per cent increase in race and hate crime,” he said. “National politicians were very quick to whip up fear before the vote and they have been very quiet about it since the vote.

“Three or four days after the vote I spoke to a Polish woman in our street and she started crying. Things had been said to her and her friends and family.

“There seems to be an acceptance that people might be verbally abused.

“We are very fortunate that we live in a district so rich and diverse and we should celebrate it.

“We can’t and won’t let a few malicious and ignorant people spoilt that.

“We need to assure residents that we are with them and that they can report this sort of thing and we will take action.”

Coun Caroline Jackson said: “This is not a matter of party politics. This is a matter of the council making a statement that we can all get behind.

“This district should be proud of what it does already. It has a good record of tackling hate crime.

“All of us have a responsibility.

“I remember back to the 1950s and 60s a society where open racism was accepted. We cannot let it return to that. We have to make a stand.”

Coun Liz Scott said: “Since 2000 I have been the only ethnic minority councillor on this council. I have lived 43 years in Lancaster and I have experienced racism and it is quite painful.

“Since Brexit I have been told of a Polish worker who went to work the next day and was told that they thought he would have gone back to Poland.

“We need to work together and very closely with the police.”

Coun Darren Clifford said: “To the victims I say that we are your friends and neighbours and we will take these incidents seriously and act upon them.

“To the perpetrators I will say ‘not in my name’. This is a great, tolerant country and the pride we have in our country cannot be demonstrated by the hate we have in someone else’s.”

A motion put forward by Labour councillors that they wished to work with other organisations to challenge race hate and prevent such crimes was unanimously approved by the council, with the addition of aspects of a Green party motion, which was withdrawn as a separate agenda item.

The decision was greeted with loud applause from all councillors, council officers and members of the public.