A Lincolnshire politician has defended her comments on alleged “gang warfare” in the county which emerged just hours after the deaths of three people in Spalding.
Coun Victoria Ayling, one of 12 UKIP members currently on Lincolnshire County Council, slammed critics of her claims over armed violence in the county as “trying to shut down free speech”.
Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones and John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, have both accused Coun Ayling of “divisive” and “disgraceful” comments she made in an online story reported by the Daily Express.
In the story, Coun Ayling spoke of alleged Eastern European migrant gangs working on Lincolnshire farms who obtain fake passports in order to travel around European Union (EU) countries, but end up “to their eyeballs in debt”.
“I was called by the (Daily) Express and answered their questions,” Coun Ayling said.
“Residents had contacted me after the first reports of the shooting incident.
“The previous evening, there had been the Big Brexit Channel 5 debate which many of them had watched.
“There was much made of migrant-upon-migrant murders and residents were asking me if the shooting was one of them.”
Coun Ayling then referred to a report by the Daily Express about the debate during which an audience memeber from Boston claimed there was a lack of integration in the town and “all we get is murders”.
The Express reported comments made at the debate by Angie Cook who ran a haulage business in Boston and was quoted by the newspaper as saying: “We’ve had murder after murder, I’m sorry but it’s true.
“We have murders and it is not English people murdering English people.
“It is the EU migrants who are murdering each other and we have to pick up the bill for this.”
Coun Ayling said: “Are you attacking this woman for giving her opinion?
“Tragic though those deaths (in Spalding) were, it caused an issue to be raised.
“My sympathy goes to the family of the victims, (but I) am concerned and wonder if local mental health services did enough to prevent this tragedy.
“As a councillor, people contact me about these things.
“Are you as a newspaper saying this should not be the case?
“You indicate that you have not reported turf war incidents which does not mean they do not happen.
“Boston is the murder capital of Britain, why?”
Coun Ayling went on to mention the impact of a survey done earlier this year by the Policy Exchange, an independent think tank based in London aimed at improving public services in Britain.
The Integration Index survey showed Spalding as the fourth least-integrated place in England and Wales, behind Oldham, Lancashire, Wisbech and Boston which came top.
Coun Ayling said: “Tensions are high in migrant communities in Boston due to the competition between gangmasters, especially since the (International Transport Workers Federation) v Viking (Line) decision in the European Court (2007).
“This allowed those who set up companies in any EU country (and) provide labour in the UK to just pay the minimum wage of that country. “This means there are price wars going on, increasing tension, and this is a horrible situation for those caught in the middle which are the migrant workers themselves.”
Coun Ayling also refered to remarks made by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve who spoke of tensions between police and the Islamic community in the wake of the deaths of 84 people in Nice last Thursday.
“Should the French Interior Minister apologise for raising concerns about the community tensions in France?” Coun Ayling said.
“The press should be appalled they are trying to shut down free speech.
“Why should I apologise for telling the truth?
“They should apologise for failing to provide balanced news coverage.”