A Muslim councillor who criticised the absence of ethnic minority representatives in positions of power in Birmingham has been told by the leader of the City Council she should consider moving to Oldham or Burnley - the scene of vicious race riots in 2001.
Mike Whitby, the Tory leader of Birmingham, accused Sparkbrook Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob of making "cheap and narrow-minded" observations when she pointed out that all cabinet members and scrutiny committee chairmen were white.
Coun Yaqoob praised a Birmingham Post article which highlighted the "white, middle class, mostly male" power base of the council's ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration.
Coun Whitby (Con Harborne), in a sharp exchange of views at last night's full city council meeting, claimed her remarks would hold back the progress of cultural diversity in Birmingham.
He added: "If she wants to represent Oldham or Burnley, let her go there."
Coun Yaqoob said it was apparent a "glaring gap" existed in political representation in Birmingham, a city that is expected to have a majority non-white population within 15 years.
She added: "It is a scandal that not a single representative of the Afro-Caribbean or Asian communities is deemed capable of exercising power. What will the leader of the council do to address this glaring gap in political representation?"
Coun Yaqoob's comments touched a raw nerve, since the Tory-Lib Dem coalition has been embarrassed at the absence of ethnic minority representatives in key positions.
Coun Whitby accused Coun Yaqoob of "spreading misunderstandings" about ethnicity issues.
He said the council was at the forefront of solving difficult issues arising from last year's Lozells riots, which saw violence erupt between Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities.
Coun Whitby praised The Post's series on multi-racial Britain. Birmingham's efforts had been accepted as best practice by the Government, he added.
Addressing Coun Yaqoob, he said: "Don't come here and try to divide groups that are working well together and are recognised as working well together."
After the meeting Coun Whitby said he hoped the absence of ethnic minority representation at scrutiny committee chairmen level would be resolved soon.