A union of Birmingham political and business leaders have appealed to Chancellor Rishi Sunak for a planned ‘way out’ of Tier 2 restrictions to give hope to residents.
They have also asked for a package of support for hospitality firms devastated by the new measures, which were announced yesterday (October 12).
“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,” says the letter.
“Our ambition is to leave the ‘High’ category as soon as possible and certainly before Christmas,” they add.
The letter was sent this evening from Birmingham’s Chamber of Commerce, city council, MPs, Lords, trades unions and Business Improvement Districts.
Birmingham City Council leader Cllr 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, signed by representatives from across the business community, MPs from all political parties, Trade Unions and the council shows the level of determination to protect people’s livelihoods.”
Deputy Leader of the Council Brigid Jones added: “This is a more challenging time than anyone could have imagined…decisive action is now required, and we want to work jointly with Government to shield our communities from the immediate impacts of an economic downturn and create the platform for an economic recovery.”
It comes amid a backlash from hospitality representatives about the new measures announced, which includes a ban on people from different households mixing in social settings. The same rule also applies to other Tier 2 areas, including Solihull, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.
“This alone will have a devastating impact on an already fragile hospitality sector,” they write.
While acknowledging the Government is “making incredibly difficult decisions in unprecedented times” the signatories express frustration about the strategy used.
They say the Government did not take the evidence based approach, rooted in data and local expertise, they had recommended – because had that happened, restrictions affecting the hospitality sector would not have been introduced.
Their three requests are:
- A review of restrictions within 14 days
- A package of financial support to sustain businesses through the winter
- A clear exit strategy, with timescales
The letter concludes with an appeal to the Chancellor.
“Prior to Covid-19 Birmingham was booming, with an economy second only to London in size at £31.9bn. Our tourism and hospitality sectors were worth £13bn, employing close to 76,000 people.
“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.”
Paul Faulkner, Chief Executive Officer of Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said: “So much was invested in supporting businesses through the first wave of this virus through the furlough scheme, Bounce Back and Coronavirus Interruption Loans and more. We cannot let that go to waste and give up on the most impacted businesses at the time they need the support the most.”
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News and updates on the world of politics seemed to become much more important than ever during the coronavirus pandemic as we waited for news of the Government’s responses to the crisis and how it affected our daily lives.
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There are all the Government briefings and announcements as well as new laws, decisions on the economy that affect businesses and our personal finances, policies on benefits such as Universal Credit and of course local and national elections that decide who represents us.
There’s also all the news from Birmingham City Council and other Midlands authorities on housing, education, bin collections, roads, transport, public health and so much more. And how much council tax they’ll charge us for delivering those services.
Mayor Andy Street has previously said the new rules are not supported locally, nor did they reflect extensive discussions held in the days leading up to the announcement.
“The main problem in the West Midlands remains transmission within household settings, and stricter measures for the hospitality industry will not solve that.”
The local fury comes as Labour leader Keir Starmer has demanded a full-blown national lockdown lasting two to three weeks, to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Sir Keir said the Government’s approach was failing. So he said he was calling for a “circuit-breaker” – a full-blown nationwide lockdown.
The full list of signatories:
Andrew Mitchell MP
Annmarie Kilcline, Regional Secretary West Midlands, Unite the Union
Asian Business Chamber of Commerce
Cllr Brigid Jones, deputy leader, Birmingham City Council
Baroness Christine Crawley
David Jamieson, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner
The Right Reverend David Urquhart, Lord Bishop of Birmingham
Baroness Estelle Morris of Yardley
Rich Bishop, West Midlands Regional Chair Federation of Small Businesses
Gary Sambrook MP
Baroness Gisela Stuart of Edgbaston
Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership
Cllr Ian Ward, Leader, Birmingham City Council
Jack Dromey MP
Jackie Hendley, Institute of Directors West Midlands
James Wong, Chair of Southside BID
Lord Jeff Rooker
Jess Philips MP
Joe Morgan, Regional Secretary, GMB
Joel Blake, President, Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce
Khalid Mahmood MP
Liam Byrne MP
Luke Crane, JQDT Executive Director
Nicola Fleet-Milne, Chair of Colmore BID
Paul Faulkner, CEO, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce
Phil Arkinstall, President of the Sutton Coldfield Chamber of Commerce
Baron Philip Hunt of Kings Heath
Preet Kaur Gill MP
Shabana Mahmood MP
Steve McCabe MP