26th Sep, 2021

Unions tackle West Midlands Mayor over help for culture and arts sectors

Coventry Editorial 14th Dec, 2020

MIDLANDS cultural sector trade unions have called on West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, to declare what discussions he has had with the Department For Culture Media and Sport Minister, Oliver Dowden, in order to protect the local cultural sector.

TUC Midlands Culture & Leisure Industries Committee (CLIC) chair Stephen Brown has written to the Mayor with a ‘Freedom Of Information’ (FOI) request.

The request asks: “please provide copies of any formal/informal proposals, meeting minutes, including correspondence with DCMS/Culture Minister Oliver Dowden to find out what WMCA, CLB & CRU, and the Mayor’s office, is doing in real terms, to address this existential threat to our cultural economy?”

The FOI request also refers to the issues facing the sector, particularly the self-employed, 47 per cent of whom, according to Government statistics, have received no help at all under any of its schemes like the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

Mr Brown said: “Too many of our members have endured months of no work, and reduced income.

“Whilst those fortunate enough to have kept a job may have been furloughed at 80 per cent pay, others have been made redundant despite huge grants being awarded to organisations from the Cultural Recovery Fund.

“Where’s that money going? Our freelance members are now hanging up their instruments or leaving the profession to drive mini-cabs, work in care homes, or deliver for supermarkets.

“Our cultural workforce is being decimated and without urgent action to address it, we may be in no fit state to recover from these losses to kick-start our cultural economy when we are finally through to the other side of this crisis.

“We want to know what the Mayor is doing to address this matter in real terms apart from his Cultural Leadership Board (CLB) and the Cultural Recovery Unit (CRU) – neither of which appear to have made any tangible difference to improve or speak up for the prospects or livelihoods of workers in our sector.”

Shadow West Midlands Mayor, Liam Byrne, supportive of the unions’ calls added: “The restrictions for our region have devastated the arts and culture community, so,we can’t have a mayor who stands by and let’s this sector sink beneath the waves. We need to stand up and battle for what we need.”

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