Oldham chief fears return of race riots

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Oldham's white and Asian communities remain as segregated as they were 10 years ago at the time of the town's race riots, according to the outgoing leader of the council.

"Oldham's just as segregated now as it was," said Howard Sykes. "Could we have a riot on a hot summer afternoon? Yes... anybody who tells you any different is a liar. And I don't think we're different from 20 or 30 other places in this country either."

The Ritchie report examining the causes of the violence in May 2001, when 500 police clashed with Asian youths and a pub was firebombed, found that the riots were the result of whites and Asians living apart. The author, David Ritchie, warned that "segregation is an unacceptable basis for a harmonious community".

Mr Sykes's suggestion to residents of the town is that they should "learn to be comfortable" with segregation.

"I don't necessarily see segregated communities as a problem. Can you blame somebody who chooses to be near their relatives, near the shops that sell the things that they want and where their place of worship is?"

Schools in Oldham are polarised along racial lines, research by Bristol University has found. More than 80 per cent of primary school pupils of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin attend a school in which no more than 20 per cent of the pupils are white.