THOSE who voted for the BNP on May 1 have done considerable damage to the image and economic prospects of Burnley and damaged their own interests in the process.

It is no longer possible with any credibility to say that voting for the BNP was some form of unfocused protest. In each of the wards in the borough where they stood there was at least one, usually two, non-Labour candidates.

Burnley has now labelled itself as the BNP, therefore racist, capital of Britain.

Let me explain why that result is so damaging, even if there are only eight BNP councillors out of 45. It was difficult enough following the disturbances two years ago for the council to recruit and retain good quality staff. It will be doubly difficult now.

Other public sector employers are in the same position. A top ranking health service executive said to me recently that the NHS in Burnley would now find it much harder to recruit good staff, when so many of them are from ethnic minorities.

Lancashire's teacher recruitment officer said before the election that Burnley had a problem recruiting teachers and that it had got worse over the past year. What will it be like now?

I have been trying as chairman of the Lancashire Hill Country Tourism Consortium to build the image of East Lancashire to attract more tourists and therefore more jobs to the area. There will be an image, whatever the truth, of a town with poor housing, poor schools, a poor health service, and where there is a significant risk of disturbances breaking out again.

If anyone thinks I am scaremongering here, they should ask themselves why the police have been continuously on a high state of alert over the risk of community conflict since June 2001.

Their national leader, Nick Griffin, has declared openly that his ideal is an all-white Britain, to be achieved by 'voluntary' repatriation.

Burnley has only seven per cent of its population of Asian heritage, and the vast majority of those are British citizens. Does he expect that British citizens will volunteer in any more than penny numbers to return to the Indian sub-continent?

appeal to all those who have the real interests of the borough at heart to recognise the truth, go out and vote, and reject the politics of racism.

COUN PETER Kenyon, Executive Member for Best Value and Resources, Burnley Council.