THE number of crimes relating to race or religion doubled in Bracknell and Wokingham last year, new figures reveal.

In 2016 and the beginning of 2017, 73 incidents were recorded by police across the two towns, a rise of 115 per cent compared to the previous year and 20 more than 2014/15.

The figures, released in Thames Valley Police's annual crime report, come a month after a Trade Union Congress (TUC) study linked a spike in racial abuse with the EU Referendum.

A national survey of 1,000 BAME adults found that one in five had suffered or witnessed a racial assault, while others heard racist remarks or saw upsetting material.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the scale of abuse was "shocking", adding: "Brexit has given racism a new lease of life. Discrimination has never gone away, but since the referendum racism has been on the rise.

"It's unacceptable that shop workers, bus drivers and street cleaners face abuse from members of the public and their employers don't have to do anything to protect them."

In March this year a group of girls beat taxi driver Mohammed Argoubi outside Wokingham Station, in what was classified as a racially aggravated attack.

Shocking incidents such as these have led some, such as Mr O'Grady and a Sky News poll which asked if people thought Britain was more racist following the Leave Vote, to draw a link between Brexit and race relations.

But others have argued they shouldn't.

Although 115 per cent is a large rise and appears to suggest an alarming upwards trend, the 37 per cent rise from 2014/15 to 2016/17 is far less significant.

Moreover, the number of successful outcomes, such as conviction, has remained at a steady level for the past three years. 

This could suggest that the spike, rather than showing a surge in racist incidents, could reflect an increased willingness or ability to report crimes.

Superintendent Rob France, Local Policing Association Commander for Bracknell and Wokingham, said:“A key aim for us is to raise awareness and confidence in the local community in reporting incidents to us, this is reflected in the increases we have seen in reports of offences like hate crime.

"Despite this increase we know that this remains an under reported crime and we are committed to encouraging people to come forward and report these incidents to us.

“Despite some of the small increases we have seen this year, Bracknell and Wokingham local police area continues to be a very safe place to live, work and visit and those incidents which do occur are dealt with robustly.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my officers and staff and our partners for their hard work over this past year and extend my gratitude to our communities for their continued support.”