Preston has been hailed as a “shining example” of community cohesion in a newly-published report.
Preston Council’s Community Scrutiny Panel were asked to take a snapshot of the city as part of last year’s Guild celebrations.
They chose to look at community cohesion as “other towns in Lancashire have had their problems”, and focused on the Fishwick area.
Author Bhikhu Patel said he found the area had “improved tremendously” over the past 20 years, and that very diverse community groups were mixing well.
But Councillor Robert Boswell said he didn’t agree.
He said: “We have a very hard core of unpleasant racists in Preston. I wouldn’t share your over-optimism Bhikhu.”
Mr Patel replied: “I disagree totally with what you have said.
“In Preston we have come a long way, and I want to move away from this idea.
“I’ve lived here for 48 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes.
“Preston is a shining example of how communities can live together and work together.
“We can always have a negative aspect, especially in hard times, where we look to blame one another, but the issue of white families underachieving is the biggest problem in Preston.”
Coun Boswell replied: “The BNP got 20 per cent of votes when they stood for election in 2006, and English First want to run in Ribbleton. If that’s not proof of hardcore racism, then I don’t know what is.”
The report, which was carried out over five months, involved interviews with residents and businesses in the Fishwick area, and several site visits.
Mr Patel said: “Twenty years ago the Callon Estate was notorious for a lot of problems, but things have improved tremendously. But there is an issue about labelling and stigmatisation of an area, and that still applies here.
“We found that in Fishwick, people get on very well with each other.
“There are a lot of new communities - many Polish and Afghan families, and they get on very well. It was amazing to see.”
Council leader Peter Rankin added: “There is good practice going on in Fishwick, despite horrendous problems of being one of the most deprived areas in Preston.”
Community groups such as Callon Kids and Fishwick Rangers were praised for helping to change the community for the better.