My partner and I had the chance to go to two of our favourite places recently.
We went to watch Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast at the Electric Cinema, the oldest working cinema in the country, and also managed to catch the new production of Animal Farm at the Rep. Both are well worth seeing.
The venues were busy, a sign people are desperate to get back to some sort of normality.
Our entertainment and hospitality sectors have suffered terribly during the pandemic. Many places have closed and won’t re-open and jobs have been lost because of continuing uncertainty. The sector is a huge part of Birmingham’s economy.
It needs government support, especially at a time when the cost-of living crisis is forcing people to cut back.
Last week, I also visited Villa Park (I also know about the great work Blues do) to hear about the work of the Aston Villa Foundation, which supports several community initiatives including help with careers in catering, entertainment and hospitality.
There’s real demand for skilled labour in these sectors, but people can be put off taking such jobs because of worries about long-term security of the businesses. It poses a threat to some of Birmingham’s greatest institutions.
The answer isn’t DWP Secretary, Therese Coffey’s, latest plan for tougher benefit sanctions. That won’t help recruitment, or skills development but it will dragoon people into areas for which they are totally unsuited while simultaneously depriving these sectors of some very talented employees.
The Chancellor offered limited relief with a temporary VAT cut but then put it up to 12.5% in October and intends a further increase to 20% in April, accompanied by an increase in Employer’s National Insurance.
Our culture, entertainment and hospitality sectors are crucial to Birmingham.
They need practical support to help them flourish.
For people who are so fond of partying, you’d think government ministers would have a bit more empathy with the hospitality sector. The people of Birmingham are doing their bit to support the Electric and the Rep and our other wonderful venues, but it would be nice if this government did their bit?