Open Letter from Ben Bradshaw MP, Karime Hassan and Sir Steve Smith

What is it that makes Exeter such a special place for you?

Amongst the variety of different reasons that this question would raise, the essence would undoubtedly be the same – its vibrancy, inclusivity, warmth, openness and tolerance to all. Exeter is so much more than just a city – it is a community that places acceptance and a warmth of spirit at its very heart.

The City and the University have always stood for and will always uphold the values of respect, tolerance and inclusivity. We are proud that Exeter is a place that welcomes all and we acknowledge the immense contribution that those from other EU countries have made and continue to make to our communities, to our cultural life and to our local economy.

It has now been a week since the result of the EU Referendum was announced. As the well-known maxim suggests, a week is a long time in politics and the result has brought to the surface many fundamental issues of how we interact and conduct ourselves, and towards each other – namely community, immigration and leadership.

Exeter was one of the few places in the south west to vote 'Remain' and so the result last week has weighed heavily on many of us. And what has been most distressing has been the emotional impact that this has had on everybody no matter how their vote was cast. The reality of what 'Brexit' means for many on a personal level has affected homes, workplaces, schools and communities.

At times like this we must ensure that a 'Brexit' vote does not mean the values that we hold are lost. 'Brexit' does not equal 'Vexit'. Isolated incidents of what can only be described as racist and xenophobic behaviour should not, and will not, be tolerated in our organisations and in our city. It is our personal and collective duty to ensure pockets of abuse are stamped out at the earliest opportunity.

People from all over the world have made their lives here bringing skills and talent, culture and diversity. We must stand up to hate crime and speak publicly and proudly about our gratitude to those who have chosen to come to Exeter to work, to live and to contribute to our city's successful future. We must remember that the communities that we live in today are the same ones that we lived in seven days ago. Our collective and individual leadership has never been more important.

Exeter is a healthy and vibrant city, bucking the trend nationally and regionally on standards of living and jobs according to ONS data in relation to GDP. There are more job vacancies than job seekers. In an article published in the Guardian (9th March 2016) data from June 2015 showed there were 0.24 jobseekers per vacancy in Exeter. That's 4 vacancies for every person out of work. We need people to want to come and work and live here.

The numbers show an interesting story for the region. We have as many people coming to build their lives here from around the UK as from outside it. The ten year projections show international migration will make up a small proportion of overall population growth over a ten year period.

In Cornwall, population growth projections in 2015 of +4,200 is driven by natural changes in births and deaths of 800 fewer people plus net internal migration from other parts of the UK of +4,100 and finally international migration of +900. For Devon, the picture is similar, with a total projection of +4,500 in 2015 being made up by births/deaths of -1,600 , people coming from other parts of the UK +3,600 and net international migration of +2,600. In total, an extra 1100 people from outside the UK across the whole of Devon and Cornwall.

So while the dust settles on national issues we can all do our part to ensure that Exeter continues to thrive by understanding that we need people to come and join our community and showing understanding to those in our community who have not felt wanted by the UK this week.

The Right Hon Ben Bradshaw MP
Karime Hassan, Chief Executive and Growth Director, Exeter City Council
Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, The University of Exeter

Date: 02/07/16