Melting pot of integration

Date published: 01 February 2016

COUNCILS should be given statutory responsibility to improve integration, a think-tank has said.

Its research claims Oldham is one of the most divided towns in the UK.

The neo-conservative Policy Exchange said forcing councils to publish regular audits would focus minds on action to ensure a better ethnic mix in schools or staff in public services. Government should compile a comprehensive national analysis every three to five years, it demanded at the launch of a new demography, iImmigration and integration unit.

Head David Goodhart said: “If there’s a national consensus that we want to avoid parallel lives, any pressure on them to produce figures and to get councillors thinking about how they can make schools and neighbourhoods more mixed is a help.”

Analysis using data from the 2011 consensus showed significant variations in the extent of inclusion, he said.

Boston in Lincolnshire - which has had an influx of mostly Eastern European workers over recent years - was considered least integrated. Others had either seen similar immigration patterns in recent years or had long-established minority communities, mostly of Pakistani origin. The other least-integrated places were identified as Oldham, Wisbech, Spalding, Bradford, Batley, Halifax, Blackburn, Keighley and Accrington.

Mr Goodhart said: “Ethnic minority integration has shot up the political agenda in recent months and it is useful to know where the biggest challenges and the often quiet success stories actually are.

Louise Bours, UKIP MEP for the North-West, said: “This is the evidence of the complete failure of multiculturalism thrust upon on places like Accrington and Oldham by the former Labour government.

“You cannot blame the communities themselves — how are two or three sets of relative strangers meant to suddenly be part of one big happy family?

Oldham Council leader Jean Stretton slammed the report as “desktop research which doesn’t reflect the reality. We cannot micro-manage communities.”

Councillor Stretton later explained that she does not deny there are issues but insisted the council has been doing a lot. Regeneration schemes in Oldham town centre are all designed to change the area into a more family-oriented place.

Mr Goodhart responded by saying that Mrs Stretton was being “overly defensive”.

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