Business, political and trade union leaders in Birmingham have called on the Government to provide more financial support to the city after it was placed in the ‘high’ alert coronavirus category this week.
Twenty-eight signatories have put their names to a joint statement urging Chancellor Rishi Sunak to provide greater support to businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, amid fears they will not survive the winter.
Among the new restrictions imposed this week is the edict that different households in Birmingham, and four other parts of the West Midlands, cannot mix indoors which includes venues such as bars and restaurants.
In the joint statement, the city’s leaders pledged to work constructively with the Government to protect jobs but warned that many businesses in Birmingham’s £13 billion hospitality sector faced closure.
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City council leader Ian Ward said: “It has been an incredibly challenging time for the city over the last several months and, without further support from government, it could well be a bleak winter.
“This joint statement…..shows the level of determination to protect people’s livelihoods.”
Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, added: “The business community is united in their concerns about the potential impact of these new measures and calls for clarity and action.
“We have hospitality businesses operating under seriously reduced capacity and unpredictable demand as customers react at short notice to the developing covid situation – all while managing too predictable overheads.
“We have many more businesses and employees aside who need to see that clarity and sense of longer term planning and action from government on how the country will navigate through these challenging winter months.
“So much was invested in supporting businesses through the first wave of this virus….we cannot let that go to waste and give up on the most impacted businesses at the time they need the support the most.”
The statement, which can be read in full below, has been signed by:
Andrew Mitchell MP
Annmarie Kilcline, regional secretary West Midlands, Unite the Union
Baroness Christine Crawley
David Jamieson, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner
Right Reverend David Urquhart, Lord Bishop of Birmingham
Baroness Estelle Morris of Yardley
Rich Bishop, West Midlands regional chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses
Gary Sambrook MP
Baroness Gisela Stuart of Edgbaston
Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership
Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council
Jack Dromey MP
Jackie Hendley, Institute of Directors West Midlands
James Wong, chairman of Southside BID
Jason Wouhra, president of Asian Business Chamber of Commerce
Lord Jeff Rooker
Jess Philips MP
Joe Morgan, regional secretary of GMB
Joel Blake, president of Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce
Khalid Mahmood MP
Liam Byrne MP
Luke Crane, executive director Jewellery Quarter BID
Nicola Fleet-Milne, chairwoman of Colmore BID
Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce
Phil Arkinstall, president of Sutton Coldfield Chamber of Commerce
Baron Philip Hunt of Kings Heath
Preet Kaur Gill MP
Shabana Mahmood MP
The statement in full:
We write on behalf of Birmingham’s business community, including Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, Birmingham City Council, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, Institute of Directors West Midlands, Federation of Small Businesses, MPs, Lords, trade unions and business improvement districts following the announcement the city was to be subject to further enhanced restrictions.
Birmingham now falls into the ‘high’ level category of restrictions (Tier 2) which, among other things, will prevent the mixing of households in social settings.
This alone will have a devastating impact on an already fragile hospitality sector.
We acknowledge and appreciate that government is making incredibly difficult decisions in unprecedented times.
But these are also difficult and unprecedented times for our employees, constituents and members, many of whom have had to live with the uncertainty that covid-19 has brought over the spring and summer months which now seems likely to extend for the duration of the winter.
Prior to covid-19, Birmingham was booming with an economy second only to London in size at £31.9 billion.
Our tourism and hospitality sectors were worth £13 billion, employing close to 76,000 people.
The council and Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce wrote to you last week setting out the steps the Government needed to take to help limit the impact of coronavirus on the city.
* Taking an evidence-informed approach to the implementation of restrictions so, if a threshold is met (such as the rate of infection per 100,000), work is undertaken to fully understand the sources of infection in a geographic area to enable the tailoring of restrictions accordingly.
If this approach had been adopted last week, there would not have been a restriction on household mixing in our hospitality sector as the evidence suggests there is a very small rate of infection emanating from bars and restaurants in the city.
Such a move could save businesses and jobs. This opportunity was missed (this week) and we hope government will listen when it reviews the restrictions again which we understand will be 14 days from now
* Provide a clear criteria that would trigger an ‘exit’ from a category of restriction, including timescales. From a Birmingham perspective, we need to know what needs to be done to exit the ‘high’ level category.
We need to give our communities something to aim for and state it clearly. Our ambition is to leave the ‘high’ category as soon as possible and certainly before Christmas
* Provide a sufficient package of support to businesses to sustain them through the winter. Without such support, many businesses will simply not survive to see 2021
We want to work constructively with you to find solutions that protect people’s businesses, their jobs, their livelihoods and the communities in which they live from a significant spike in unemployment that could follow if action is not taken.
We can limit the damage but only if we act decisively and do so now.
The Birmingham that we know today owes much to the innovators and entrepreneurs of the 18th century, such as Matthew Boulton and James Watt, who helped to create jobs and sustain huge industries – firmly establishing the city on the global stage.
We can assure you that spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well today and collectively we will do all that we can to keep the local economy going but we urgently need your help.
We will be providing you with more detail around specific requests of government in the next week following consultation with stakeholders.