Local Commonwealth Games levy

Part of Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Labour, Birmingham, Hodge Hill 1:45 pm, 11th June 2020

I can scarcely believe what I have heard this afternoon. This council has had its budged halved by this Government over the past 10 years, yet its area is home to some of the worst deprivation in the country. The leadership of the council in the past few years have been miraculous, given the challenges that they have had to go through. They have gone over and above that, helping the country out by offering to host the Commonwealth games when Durban pulled out, and we should be grateful for that, not curmudgeonly, like Gary Sambrook. He should be less curmudgeonly and more welcoming of the leadership the city is providing.

I do not want to let hon. Members escape from the substantial point we are confronting now and going forward. Coronavirus has created a fiscal risk to the city that totals about £164 million, because of the umming and ahhing from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. That is not unique to Birmingham. The Local Government Association and Tory and Labour Members alike have written to the Government about this situation. One way we can de-risk it a bit is to have a pilot scheme in which a £1 levy on hotel rooms is created to help to fund some of the brilliant cultural work that needs to go on around the Commonwealth games.

Just so that hon. Members know, we have two risks coming up in the west midlands. The city of culture in Coventry has now been moved from January to June next year and that will run straight into the Commonwealth games, which will start in the summer of 2022. Frankly, it will be a pretty thin affair if all of the cultural institutions in the west midlands have collapsed. I say to the Minister today that they are on the brink of collapse now. The Hippodrome is already firing people. The Rep, which is a signatory to the letter to the Secretary of State from UK Theatre, is running a serious fiscal deficit. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is also looking at a serious deficit. In fact, when I convened a meeting with Culture Central from the west midlands last week, they were all reporting significant deficits.

I know that the Minister, because he is a responsible sort, will be working on a rescue plan for the cultural sector. I know that he is going to have difficult conversations with the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I know what the other side of those conversations looks like, because I had them with Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Ministers in my time. The Minister’s arm will be strengthened if he is able to bring to the table imaginative proposals such as that in new clause 2. We are not asking for the moon; we are asking for £1 a night. That could, across the region over the course of four or five years, create a fund of about £4 million or £5 million, which could offset some of the costs that are needed and help to save the magnificent cultural institutions in Britain’s second city.