Birmingham leaders demand government support to protect businesses during lockdown
Birmingham business leaders and politicians are demanding greater support from the government for city traders amid the coronavirus crisis and impending second lockdown.
City MPs including Liam Byrne, Preet Kaur Gill and Shabana Mahmood have added their names to an official letter from Birmingham City Council and the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce requesting additional support for local businesses affected by the COVID-19 restrictions.
The latest letter has been submitted to government only weeks after an earlier plea was made urging Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to provide financial support for Birmingham businesses.
Backed by political, business and trade union leaders, the request comes alongside a detailed set of national asks and a proposed Birmingham support package that the council is seeking to implement.
Measures being requested include additional support for the hardest hit sectors including hospitality, visitor economy, live events and their supply chains; enhancement of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, and wider approaches to reducing pressures on businesses, including tax credits and further VAT reductions.
Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said:
“Following consultation with local businesses and key stakeholders, it is clear that further support is required to help Birmingham businesses survive over the winter months and be in a more position to run when restrictions ease.
“This is vital if we are to protect jobs, livelihoods and communities. We are keen to make sure we are doing everything we can to support businesses with the needed support from Government to prepare for winter.”
In similar correspondence sent to Rishi Sunak on 19 October, city politicians, enterprise and community leaders wrote:
“Birmingham now falls into the “High Level” category of restrictions (Tier 2) which amongst 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 £31.9bn. Our tourism and hospitality sectors were worth £13bn employing close to 76,000 people.”
The letter was backed by cross-party MPs including Andrew Mitchell, Gary Sambrook, Jack Dromey, Jess Phillips, Khalid Mahmood and Steve McCabe. It also had the support of West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, Lord Bishop of Birmingham David Urquhart, Chair of Southside BID James Wong, Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce President Joel Blake, Unite the Union and the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce.
Paul Faulkner, Chief Executive Officer of Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said:
“It is clear that things are going to get worse on COVID-19 before they get better. In these difficult times, it is vital that we pull together across sectors and parties to support our local business community and the people they employ. We are pleased to be again working with regional partners on escalating some of the key concerns and asks.
“We have put down a marker on the key areas that need addressing. We will continue to call for urgent action from Government while also working regionally, with Birmingham City Council and others, to connect businesses to support, maximise every opportunity and keep business moving through COVID-19 and beyond.”
Deputy leader of Birmingham City Council Cllr Brigid Jones added: “Birmingham is home to thousands of small businesses that keep tens of thousands of people employed, food in their cupboards and roofs over their heads.
“We’ve listened to our business community and they’ve made it clear what support they need to keep our great city going – and that they need that support now.”
On Friday, the government announced a second national lockdown for England amid rising coronavirus cases across the country.
The lockdown will be enforced from Thursday 5 November, with renewed restrictions including the closure of non-essential shops and hospitality for 30 days, but a return of the Government’s furlough scheme.