Two out of three people believe that there are too many immigrants in Britain
The far-reaching impact of the recent waves of immigration from eastern Europe is laid bare in the report by the Commission on Integration and Cohesion.
A Mori poll carried out for the commission found that 68 per cent of those questioned thought there were "too many migrants in Britain," a view shared by 47 per cent of Asians and 45 per cent of black respondents.
It also showed that 56 per cent of people believed some groups - mainly immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees - receive unfair priority in the allocation of housing, health services and education.
The report said the findings showed that people "are very sensitive about perceived free-loading by other groups".
There were also deep divisions over whether immigration was beneficial - 36 per cent thought it was good for the economy but 36 per cent thought it was not.
In its report, the commission responded by jettisoning decades of multicultural orthodoxy and warning councils that they were fuelling "insularity and a sense of separation" by funding hundreds of small community groups that served only people from one race, ethnic group or religion.
The commission branded such an approach a "hangover from old identity politics" and argued that public money should be spent on groups that brought communities together.
Unveiling its 173-page report yesterday, the commission said that four out of five people felt different communities got on well in their area. However, it stressed that there were problems in some places.
In particular, it highlighted the "suspicion and mistrust" in parts of the country affected by the recent waves of immigration from eastern Europe, in particular more rural areas.
The report said councils should identify potential "hot spots" and argued that better monitoring of "community tensions means that smaller rifts can be tackled before they become bigger ones".
Councils also needed to intervene when tensions escalated into violence. The report spelt out a wide array of recommendations from the school curriculum to the creation of a new bank holiday to celebrate "cross-cultural activities."
Among its more controversial proposals, the commission argued that political parties should make "positive" steps to better reflect their ethnically diverse communities, a move critics fear is a step towards quotas.
Councils should also use "targeted recruitment" to increase the number of people from ethnic minorities on their staff.
It also called for politicians to agree to be bound by the Race Relations Amendment Act to ensure they do not make inflammatory remarks, a move some fear could prevent councillors discussing community relations.
Other proposals included issuing "welcome packs" to migrants, which could include information on acceptable behaviour as well as a guide to British culture and traditions.
A new GCSE in citizenship could be accompanied by citizenship ceremonies for all youngsters when they turn 18.
Councils should cut the amount they spend translating leaflets into foreign languages, with the money saved being used to help fund English language lessons for immigrants.
At a national level, a new body should oversee the integration of new immigrants.
Speaking at the report's launch, Ruth Kelly, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, said: "There are things that are crucial to cohesion. Equality of opportunity, making sure there are clear rules of the game that everyone understands. And stressing what we all hold in common."
Caroline Spelman, the shadow communities secretary, said ministers should say who would pay for the proposals.
"Labour has loaded local authorities with so many cost burdens that many town halls simply have no money left to pay for another Whitehall initiative," she said.
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