HATE crime reports could rise as Britain nears its exit from the European Union, councillors warned.

It came as South Swindon Parish Council quizzed police and crime commissioner Angus Macpherson about the state of the county’s force.

Steve Allsopp, a South Swindon parish councillor and ward councillor for Walcot and Park North, said: “We know as a consequence of the referendum, hate crime has increased significantly.

“As we come to the end of the current conversation on Brexit, some of the language that’s being used around the debate and the issues is not helpful for community cohesion.

"I am concerned that whatever the outcome we may see another spike in hate crimes as a consequence.

He asked the police commissioner: “What conversations have there been about ensuring community cohesion at a time when we’ve seen two years ago there was this spike.”

Mr Macpherson, who chairs Wiltshire and Swindon’s hate crime forum, made up of police officers and other community leaders, said hate crime figures have now reduced to levels last seen before the Brexit referendum in 2016.

In 2016/17, the latest year for which figures are available, 441 incidents of racial hate crimes were reported to Wiltshire Police. The year before it was 382.

The police commissioner encouraged people to join the force’s new independent advisory groups, where issues like Brexit-related hate crime could be discussed with neighbourhood police officers.

He said they should also be raised through south Swindon’s community safety forum. The group was set up last year for parish councils south of the railway line and is supposed to help set priorities for south Swindon police inspector Dave Hobman and his team.

To apply to join a Wiltshire Police advisory group, visit: wiltshire.police.uk

To apply to join a Wiltshire Police advisory group, visit: www.wiltshire.police.uk/article/1534/Join-our-IAGs.