IN the last few years many people from Eastern Europe, and particularly Poland, have come to live in Taunton Deane.

I recognise that this can cause some difficulties. For example, extra numbers of residents, regardless of their nationality, puts pressure on housing, whilst some schools have to adapt to teaching children whose first language is not English.

That needs to be balanced against the positive contribution made by many Polish people.

Employers are extremely enthusiastic about the work ethic and reliability of Polish employees. Some sectors, like agriculture and hospitality, struggle to find willing recruits from the existing local population.

Other Polish people are filling vacancies in skilled jobs like dentistry where there are insufficient numbers of trained British people to serve the existing community.

I would be extremely sad and embarrassed by any general hostility towards Polish people living in Taunton Deane.

They enjoy the same freedom to live and work across the EU as British people with jobs in France or retirement homes in Spain.

Of course it is preferable if people make an effort to integrate into a new community, but just as I would be shocked to hear that a British person was attacked for speaking English in Majorca, we should be appalled if a Polish person in Taunton Deane suffers a similar fate for talking in their own language.

There is also a wider historical context. Britain went to war in 1939 when Poland was invaded by Hitler's Germany, and many Polish people fought alongside us, most notably in the RAF.

Then, when I was growing up, Poland suffered from Soviet oppression, and we lived with the threat that the Cold War could explode into a third worldwide conflict, with devastating casualties on all sides.

Now Poland is a democracy with freedom of speech, movement and trade. Some of their people have come here and are contributing to our economy and our society. Both countries now enjoy shared values and friendly relations.

Compared to the situation a generation ago, that is a huge leap forward for civilisation, and for the people of both Britain and Poland.