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Amendment 1

Part of Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL] - Committee – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 25th February 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Janke Baroness Janke Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 5:00 pm, 25th February 2020

My Lords, I want to speak in particular to Amendments 3 and 11. This is a major opportunity for Birmingham to promote itself in an international context, with all the subsequent benefits. I know that Birmingham is a fantastic city and that it has been regenerated with huge imagination, creativity and great ambition. Following on from the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, it is very important for us here to give other cities the confidence that they can take their ambitions forward, bring huge benefits for the people who live there and demonstrate what fantastic places they are in an international context.

As has been said, these amendments particularly address the demands that are likely to be made on local authorities, as well as the scope for the maximisation of benefits. I have been a city leader myself, and I can only imagine how the city council feels about the Games. There will be huge pride and ambition against a backdrop of unprecedented cuts to council budgets and the anxiety that must come with that. In an international context, they will have to face great pressures.

Amendment 11 would introduce a range of financial possibilities. The amendment is also very timely. I know that there are very many ways that the Core Cities, among others, could advise the Government if they wish to look at alternative funding sources.

The principle of the pilot tourist levy proposed in Amendment 3 is supported by many cities, not just for major events but as part of a programme for greater devolution of powers, including fiscal powers, to our cities and appropriate local authorities. There is an absolute weight of evidence showing the economic potential that could be unleashed in our cities through a more radical devolution of powers. I like to feel that the Government will look at giving powers—not just words of comfort about giving big sums of money—to the constituencies that they have said are being left behind in this country.

Other forms of fiscal devolution and local fundraising powers have been examined and evaluated by many organisations, such as the City Growth Commission, the London Finance Commission and many others. Amendment 11 offers the opportunity for these to be considered at an early stage in the context of these Games. However, having had direct contact over a tourist levy, I would say there will be a strong need to consult on these proposals. We should not underestimate the level of opposition that can be amassed against such things by interested parties, not necessarily citizens. Nor should we underestimate the need for a realistic timetable, because any new measures need that. We need measures to be taken so that they can be smoothly introduced and supported, rather than constantly opposed.

I know that this has all already been said. I was here at Second Reading when the Minister did not accept the principle behind Amendment 3. However, I hope that the Government will consider the opportunities offered by Amendments 1 and 11 to bring forward more detailed proposals so that there are feasible options available to Birmingham or any other city in the future. I also hope that there might be some new thinking on local taxation and devolution to provide cities and local authorities with the means of taking forward their ambitious plans for the future and putting their own cities on the international map.