The new West Midlands Mayor has been called on to tackle integration after a report revealed inner-city Muslim children are more likely to grow up without meeting or understanding people from different backgrounds.

The report from the British Future think tank says that the mayor faces a major challenge to bring the diverse West Midlands population together.

It warns that failure to do so could lead to a repeat of the 2014 Trojan Horse scandal which ‘divided the city, damaged the image of Birmingham and polarised the debate about integration’.

The report, backed by Birmingham MPs, called for a deputy mayor focused on social integration and citizenship. They would help the mayor tackle similar issues before they arise and use the region’s 11,000 voluntary groups to forge greater social links.

Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell, Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart and a range of civic and community leaders have backed the call in an open letter to the mayoral candidates.

The mayoral candidates at debate

Issues include:

  • A great degree of political polarisation post Brexit
  • The West Midlands is one of the most diverse regions in Europe and cuts across three different cities
  • The white population is ageing and increasingly secular, while minority ethnic groups are younger and more religious
  • Some very wealthy areas are next to highly deprived areas
  • Suburban Birmingham areas including Sutton Coldfield, Longbridge and Kings Norton are largely white, while some inner city areas are dominated by south Asian Muslims
  • 16.3 per cent of working age people have no qualifications (UK average is eight per cent)
  • 28.3 per cent have higher level qualifications (UK rate is 37 per cent)
  • Black Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds are more likely to be unemployed that other groups
  • 70 per cent of Bangladeshi and Pakistani women are economically inactive. As well as lacking skills they also face cultural barriers to employment

The report states that south Asian Muslim communities, compared to other minority faith groups, have a higher level of segregation in terms of both where they live and work. Children grow up with little experience of people of other backgrounds.

The new mayor will face some difficult and sensitive integration issues. These may include diverse and strongly-held opinions about the setting up of new faith based schools, regressive attitudes to gender equality and sexuality, hate crime and religious extremism.

“It is essential these issues are discussed openly and resolved constructively.”

It calls for a deputy mayor to lead consultation with communities, target part of the skills budget at Asian Muslim women and develop projects to encourage children and young people to mix with other communities and develop volunteer opportunities which bring diverse communities together .

Last year the Love Your Neighbour campaign attempted to build bridges across diverse city

Labour’s Gisela Stuart said: “Communities are at their best when they live with each other, not just alongside each other. The Midlands has a lot to be proud of at a city level, but making this happen across the region will require a conscious effort. A deputy mayor will be ideally placed to achieve just that.”

Conservative Andrew Mitchell added: “Making sure the West Midlands is a well-integrated place to live and work is vitally important and will need strong leadership right from the top. That is a challenge to which every party must respond. I support the call for a deputy mayor to champion this agenda.”

Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, said: “The new mayor of the West Midlands, whether that’s Andy Street or Sion Simon, has an opportunity to lead the way on integration and show the rest of the country how to make it work.

“But it won’t just happen on its own. The new city-region needs someone who will champion integration and push others in local government to make it a priority.”

The Letter in full

Andrew Mitchell and Gisela Stuart

The election on 4th May of the first Mayor of the West Midlands offers Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton and the whole region a chance to lead the way among new "Metro Mayors".

The newly elected mayor will play a key role in promoting the region's priorities. Alongside economic regeneration, we believe that social integration must also be a key theme for the next administration, so that growth and opportunities in the region are more widely shared. How we live together is a crucial issue for the West Midlands.

We urge the Mayoral candidates to agree to the appointment of a Deputy Mayor for social integration and citizenship - to lead a team that engages across local government, universities and schools, business, civic society groups and citizens to promote a positive agenda for social integration in the region.

The referendum has revealed Britain to be a more anxious and fragmented society than any of us would want.

As the national government prepares to respond to the challenges set out in Dame Louise Casey's review of integration, it is vital that national policy should be shaped by those working for integration on the ground in the West Midlands and across the country.

We can draw on the experience of cities and regions across Europe and the United States, including the recent appointment of a Deputy Mayor in London and similar initiatives in Barcelona, New York and Hamburg.

But the West Midlands is unique and needs to develop its own approach to making integration an 'everybody' issue.

The first task of the new Deputy Mayor would be to lead public engagement across the region - to build a consensus around how to make integration work well and to set the priorities for integration during the Mayor's first term.

We call on those standing for election as Mayor of the West Midlands to support this practical commitment to ensuring that the West Midlands leads the way on integration for the future.


Gisela Stuart MP

Andrew Mitchell MP

Sir Tim Brighouse, former Chief Education Officer for Birmingham

Arten Llazari, CEO, Refugee and Migrant Centre Black Country and Birmingham

Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive, Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre

Zubeda Limbada, Director, ConnectFutures

Joy Warmington, CEO, brap

Shailesh Solanki, Executive Editor, Eastern Eye

Sunder Katwala, Director, British Future