The new head of Aston Pride has rejected claims that members of the Afro-Caribbean community are being let down by the £ 55 million Birmingham regeneration scheme.
John Clements, recently appointed executive director at Aston Pride, said he was aware of a "perception" at street-level that the majority of projects funded by the organisation benefited the Asian community. But the suggestion was "simply not the case", he told a city council scrutiny committee.
Mr Clements was speaking in the wake of last month's riots in Nechells, which were sparked off by unsubstantiated claims that an Afro-Caribbean girl had been raped by Asian shopkeepers.
He was asked by committee member Coun Randall Brew (Con Northfield) whether he was aware that the Afro-Caribbean community felt the allocation of Aston Pride resources was skewed against it. He told the committee that Aston Pride used a robust allocation process when selecting regeneration projects.
"No groups are excluded. We are inclusive and I would challenge anyone who says we are not."
Mr Clements added: "It is about targeting where there is need and inequalities.
"Some groups may get a little bit more if they are particularly disadvantaged.
" Our crime reduction projects benefit everyone in the area. They don't target one particular community.
"Everyone benefits from our environmental clean-up projects. If we open a new health centre all groups benefit.
"There is very strict control over how the money is allocated and projects have to benefit a range of beneficiaries. I am confident we are monitoring projects on a fair and open basis."
Mr Clements was appointed following the collapse of the former Aston Pride board, which was disbanded on Government orders. The organisation failed to meet project delivery targets and was beset by bickering among the board's community members.
Mr Clements said Aston Pride's nine community board members were broadly representative of the ethnic composition of the area.
Aston Pride was now well on the road to recovery and its latest performance assessment produced a "fair" ranking, he added.
However, he accepted the organisation was still "two years behind where we should be".
He added: "Some projects haven't been delivered as quickly and effectively as they should have been. We are trying to put that right.
"We have been slow off the mark. No one is denying that. We had a chequered past but the figures coming through now show that we are fair and improving.
"I don't want to over-egg the pudding.
"We are not out of the woods yet but we have come a long way."
The lack of specialist training for Aston Pride staff and board members, a key criticism of a 2004 council scrutiny inquiry, is being addressed by the establishment of regeneration courses at Birmingham University.
The communications strategy, also criticised, has been improved by the publication of a quarterly newsletter distributed to every household in the Aston Pride area and a website.
"Over half of the population are under 25. They don't read newspapers but they do use a website," Mr Clements added.