Many Birmingham residents fear immigration will lead to worse public services and more competition for jobs, a major new study has shown.
A survey of attitudes in the city found fears about the effects of immigration were shared among all ethnic groups, with black, Asian and white Brummies all concerned about the impact of immigration from Eastern Europe and Somalia.
But the same report found attitudes towards race relations were positive, and more than nine out of 10 Birmingham residents had friends from a different ethnic background.
Residents also wanted to see more community centres and social clubs where people of different ethnicities could mix – but had little faith in Government initiatives to encourage integration.
The report says: "Rather than focusing on superficial initiatives, such as flag-waving or oaths of allegiance to the Queen, the Government should better support civil society groups to help bring different communities together."
It was published by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, a Birmingham-based foundation founded by the eldest son of chocolate magnate Richard Cadbury, which promotes social justice.
The study, called Beyond Pancakes and Popadoms, follows predictions that Birmingham’s white population is to become a minority within 15 years, so there is no majority ethnic group.
It is based on interviews with 1,000 residents in Ladywood, Northfield and Sparkbrook, as well as in-depth discussions in focus groups.
Most city residents take a positive view, with 68 per cent describing relations between the different ethnic communities as good or very good.
However, almost a third of black people, 31 per cent, and 30 per cent of white people, say relations are poor. Asians are more optimistic, with just 15 per cent describing relations as poor.
Half the population, 51 per cent, said they socialised with people from a different ethnic group to themselves every day – and 85 per cent said they did so at least once a month.
But 14 per cent, one in seven people, said they never socialised with anyone of a different ethnicity. And that figure rose to 19 per cent, almost one in five, among white people.
Focus groups, which allowed people to discuss their views in more detail, uncovered concerns about recent immigration, the report warned.
It said: "The white working class groups in Northfield believe resources, especially spending on schools, are being redirected to other areas in Birmingham with higher ethnic populations and that access to existing services most notably the availability of social housing now favours new immigrants – especially Somalis – at the expense of people who were born and brought up in the UK."
The study found people from all backgrounds were concerned by the idea that white people were fleeing Birmingham. Working class whites feared losing their identity, while black people were concerned job opportunities and amenities would become scarcer in areas with fewer white people.
Pakistani women feared their children would receive a poorer education in all-Muslim schools, and feared Pakistani-style corruption infecting local politics in the city.
The study also criticised the role of the media, warning that Muslims felt inflammatory reports linking Islam with terrorism had led to hostility, while the black community believed reports depicting black men as violent and threatening made it harder for them to find work.
Sukhvinder Kaur-Stubbs, chief executive of the Barrow Cadbury Trust, said: "Our research makes it very clear that despite persistent political doom-mongering and despite the fact that many think government initiatives have sometimes been counter-productive, the vast majority of Brummies want to make plural, cosmopolitan Birmingham work.
"Results from virtually all polls place immigration near the top of voters’ concerns. Similarly, our Birmingham focus groups uncovered underlying concerns about access to public services, levels of wages and the failure of some people to mix. "