Black and Asian people are still not getting a fair chance to take positions of leadership in Birmingham, it was claimed last night.

The city could face serious consequences if positions were monopolised by whites.

The warning was issued by Sukhvinder Stubs, chief executive of the Barrow Cadbury Trust set up in the 1920s by the Cadbury family. It distributes #5 million each year and commissions research into social issues. Ms Stubbs chaired a series of fringe meetings at Labour's annual conference in Bournemouth this week.

Birmingham is set to become one of Britain's first cities with an ethnic majority. More than half of primary school pupils are from ethnic minorities. But very few black or Asian people held top positions in the city's major businesses or on official bodies, Ms Stubbs said.

She warned: "There is almost a denial about the extent of diversity in Britain's cities. Birmingham will be a majority-minority city. Fifty per cent of the population or more will be from the different minority ethnic groups, so there is no overall majority in the way we are used to.

"In the next ten years we are about to see some real changes in the dynamics and demography of many of our cities. But there hasn't been enough thought about what this means."

Ethnic minority children in Birmingham were not being encouraged to have high ambitions, she said.

"If you think about the school population in Birmingham, the primary school population is already majority ethnic minority.

"These youngsters are growing up in Birmingham with high unemployment levels for ethnic minorities and, more importantly they are dislocated from the decision-making.

"If you were to identify the top 200 decision makers in Birmingham, there is no real connection.

"I think what that sets up in terms of aspirations for those young people, their expectations, is hugely negative.

"If we don't get that right now and in the next few years, we will live with the consequences for another generation."

Aaron Reid, executive director of Birmingham Diver-City, which helps businesses understand and respond to the city's changing demography, agreed local authorities were in denial.

"There is definitely an element of denial from companies who don't want to acknowledge this significant shift is happening," he said. "One problem is businesses have had this presented to them as a threat."

Mr Reid explained the myth job applicants from ethnic minorities were not as qualified "must be debunked".

He said 16 per cent of the white population are studying for a degree, compared to 32 per cent of ethnic minority communities.

"The biggest problem is the process applicants go through, because often it has been in place since the year dot when the ideal candidate was a young, white male, so forms and interview questions may be skewed with subtle cultural bias," added Mr Reid.

Ms Stubs added ethnic minorities suffered from poorer living conditions.

"In Birmingham we are fortunate our communities are not anything like as polarised as in places such as Bradford, but research found in certain wards, such as Sparkbrook, Small Heath or Handsworth, we have these sort of entrenched, ghettoised communities."