Congratulations to Boston Borough Council
I've just heard that Boston Borough Council has won the "overall impact award" at the annual Scrutiny Awards, for the work of its "task and finish group", which explored (and opened well-informed discussion about) the social impact of migrant workers coming into the area.
Amongst all the UKIP hysteria, and the "Boston Lincolngrad" hype, the local Council did some great work in looking carefully at the issue -- including producing a report that is well worth reading by anyone who is interested in current migration debates (and that should be all of us). It is a wonderfully measured report. It doesn't for a minute try to pretend that there are no problems; far from it. But it does also bust a large number of myths about the effects of migration on the area. As they say towards the start of the report:
"Opinion is hugely influence by what residents believe to be true and how this makes them feel. Evidence gathered during the review has on occasions contradicted 'local' viewpoints. 'Mythbusting' is limited in effectiveness and needs constant and repeated effort."
But just as important as the report itself, is the informed, community debate it prompted in Boston itself -- and for which the award citation specifically praises the council.
And me? I feel personally just a little bit gratified by this.
This was the report that I referred to when I was talking in Lincoln on Question Time. And it was from here that I drew some of my information about the state of public services in Boston (eg the high SATs score of the school with the highest proportion of non-English speaking kids, and the realatively low demand of migrants on the NHS).
Just one of the reasons I was ridiculed then (there were others!) was because I was supposed to have believed this report -- done, it was said, by a load of self serving local councillors wanting to whitewash the problems -- rather than the testimony of local eye witnesses.
I pointed out at the time that this was a cross party report, and that it included lashings of eye-witness testimony. I also felt inside that I had spent my whole life in the business of analysing tricky and biassed evidence, that I was reasonably confident of my ability to evaluate a document, and was absolutely confident that this report was a real class act, well argued, well documented and judicious.
OK, one prize doesn't prove me right, but all the same it is very gratifying indeed to discover the the Centre for Public Scrutiny thinks like I do on this one.