Monthly Archives: November 2017

Small Business Saturday: SMEs urged to tap into Birmingham’s £3m fund

Birmingham small businesses struggling to borrow from high street banks have been urged to tap into a £3 million fund established in the city earlier this year.

Launched in April, Birmingham Small Business Loan Fund (BSBLF) aims to lend £3m to Birmingham businesses over three years.

So far the fund, which has been created by ART Business Loans (ART), Birmingham City Council, ThinCats peer lending platform and Unity Trust bank, has lent almost £500,000 to ten businesses across Birmingham, while a number of other businesses are currently going through the application process.

And, speaking ahead of Small Business Saturday (2 December), Birmingham City Council leader Cllr Ian Ward today urged other SMEs across the city to contact ART.

He said: “Small businesses have always played a huge role in Birmingham’s economy. From the days when this was the City of a Thousand Trades, right up to the present day, SMEs have created jobs and wealth in Birmingham. I’m delighted that Birmingham City Council is working with partners to help the entrepreneurs of 2017.

“Sadly, we know that many small businesses can struggle to secure borrowing, which is where the Birmingham Small Business Loan Fund comes in. I would urge any small business in Birmingham looking to access borrowing to contact ART.”

Businesses operating in Birmingham can borrow between £10,000 and £100,000 from the new BSBLF via ART. Loans can be used for any business purpose and are available to all market sectors, including retail. Repayment terms are from six months to four years and there is no penalty for early repayment.

Steve Walker, Chief Executive of ART, added: “We’re here to support enterprise and local jobs. Our average loan size is £35,000, a sum which it is particularly challenging for businesses to access elsewhere, but which can be vital to support cashflow, replace or repair equipment and enable growth.”

To apply for a loan go to or call ART on 0121 359 2444.


Memo to the Chancellor: Don’t forget about local government

When Phillip Hammond delivers his Autumn Budget on Wednesday I hope the pressing needs of local government are at the front of his mind, because after seven long years of cuts, these are challenging times for councils up and down the country.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has made clear in its budget submission that with many local services facing significant funding gaps, it is vital that the Autumn Budget recognises that councils cannot continue without sufficient and sustainable resources.

That is clearly the case here in Birmingham, where the City Council has shouldered a disproportionate share of local government cuts since 2010. Almost £600 million has been cut from our budget in the last seven years and, by the end of this decade, nearly two-thirds of the revenue budget as it existed in 2010 will have been removed. Inevitably that has meant cuts to services and sadly job losses.

As leader of the UK’s largest local authority, I wrote to the Chancellor last week, highlighting a number of key issues for Birmingham City Council.

I urged the Chancellor to correct a historic error. The decision to recalculate the local government funding formula from 2016/17 onwards was of course a welcome one. Unfortunately the now acknowledged unfairness of the funding formula in 2014/15 and 2015/16 has cost the Council in the region of £100m per annum. That shortfall clearly impacts on the people of Birmingham and I have urged Mr Hammond to address the unfairness in the Autumn Budget.

For the last seven years Birmingham has suffered some of the highest cuts in the country, while demand for the services that protect many of the most vulnerable people has continued to grow.

This can clearly be seen by the growing crisis in social care. Like local authorities across the country, Birmingham faces significant budgetary pressures in social care and the LGA has warned that for every £1 of council tax collected by councils in 2019/20, almost 60p could be spent on caring for the elderly, vulnerable adults and children.

Clearly the social care council tax precept and the £2 billion announced for social care in the Spring Budget were welcome short-term solutions, but it is absolutely vital that the Autumn Budget sets out how the Government intends to address the social care crisis. There must be long-lasting reform and councils must be given the means to meet ever increasing demand.

Inevitably seven years of austerity has meant cuts to services and sadly job losses in Birmingham. In addition, our remaining workforce has suffered a 21 per cent real-terms cut in basic pay since 2010. So I would welcome any decision to finally lift the public sector pay cap for local government, however funding for local authorities must then increase accordingly to avoid yet another real-terms cut to our funding.

I also hope the Chancellor listens to growing calls for the Government to fund a nationwide programme of retro-fitting sprinklers in high-rise blocks.

This matter is of extreme importance to over 10,000 Birmingham residents living in 213 tower blocks who are understandably concerned following the Grenfell tragedy earlier this year.

The retrofitting of sprinklers in all high-rise social housing would make a vital difference to people’s safety and I hope the government heeds the lessons of past disasters and provides the funds for this vital work.

Wednesday’s Budget comes at a key time for local government and the LGA is right to assert that with the right funding and powers, councils can continue to lead their local areas whilst the Government is distracted by Brexit negotiations.

So when the Chancellor delivers his Autumn Budget on Wednesday I hope he listens to the case for local government.

We remain committed to taking a lead on housing, regeneration, job creation and more, but these are challenging times for local government and a failure to recognise that in the Autumn Budget will have serious consequences in our communities.

Birmingham hoteliers enjoy best-ever summer

Birmingham hotel room (Hotel du vin)

  • Hotel occupancy between June-August 2017 reaches 75% average – an all-time high
  • Sporting fixtures and cultural festivals help city’s hoteliers reach seasonal peak

Birmingham’s accommodation sector posted average occupancy rates of 75% this summer, the best for this time of year since records began in 2003.

The region’s hoteliers enjoyed year-on-year occupancy rises in June (up 3%), July (up 2%) and August (up 2%), according to latest data from the West Midlands Growth Company’s Regional Observatory and STR Global.

Revenue per available room (RevPAR)* also rose to £48, a £4 increase on the average figure recorded in summer 2016.

Events contributing to the city’s summer growth included a number of international sporting fixtures. Five matches of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy were staged at Edgbaston Stadium, with the India v Bangladesh semi-final attracting the highest crowd (24,340) for any match in the tournament. The ground also played host to 70,000 spectators, including two sell-out days, for the country’s first Day/Night Test Match between England and West Indies.

In June, Edgbaston Priory Club hosted the Aegon Classic Birmingham, won by double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, and fans said their goodbyes to Sir Mo Farah at the Müller Grand Prix in August, as he ended his track career.

Birmingham City Council Leader Cllr Ian Ward said: “These record-breaking figures outline Birmingham’s growing popularity as a tourist destination. There’s no doubt that our rich calendar of sporting and cultural events is a huge attraction. People enjoy coming to Birmingham for major events and importantly many of them come back time and time again.”

Other major cultural events in Birmingham over the summer included The Big Sleuth public art trail; Dinosaurs in the Wild at the NEC; the Colmore Food Festival; and the Custard Factory’s Summer Jam.

Emma Gray, Director of Marketing & Communications at the West Midlands Growth Company, which operates the region’s leisure and business tourism programmes Visit and Meet Birmingham, said:

“Confidence in the region continues to grow, which is reflected in the tourism sector with an all-time, seasonal high for our hoteliers and an additional 13 accommodation venues in the pipeline – amounting to more than 2,000 extra bedrooms.

“With a busy Christmas in the region fast approaching, we’re also looking ahead to 2018. Our visitor offer will be boosted by the launches of Legoland Discovery Centre at Arena Birmingham and The Bear Grylls Adventure at the NEC. With the return of the World Indoor Athletics Championships and International Dance Festival Birmingham, there will be something for everyone to enjoy in the region next year.”

Hotels that have opened in 2017 include Holiday Inn Express Birmingham City Centre at Arena Central and No.8 Waterloo Street, featuring 31 self-serviced apartments. Next summer, Hilton Garden Inn will open at Birmingham Airport, and a new hotel and conferencing facility will launch in autumn 2018 at the University of Birmingham’s main campus in Edgbaston. Venues including Hallmark Hotel and Radisson Blu have also transformed their offerings, following significant refurbishments.

Hina Simpson, General Manager at Radisson Blu, said: “The summer was a really positive time for the city, with so many events and activities bringing people into Birmingham, and we hope the positive momentum continues leading up to Christmas with the German Markets and festive events just a matter of weeks away.

“Closer to home, we’re also really excited to be able to unveil our new look hotel following the completion of a £3 million refurbishment.  The investment has made a huge difference and really stands us in great stead to be able to compete as one of Birmingham’s leading hotels. With our superb location, stylish product and fantastic team members, I feel really confident the hotel will go from strength to strength in the coming months and years.”

With a 52% increase in overseas visitors to Birmingham in the past five years, the West Midlands Growth Company – through its tourism programmes – has recently undertaken successful sales missions in the United States, the Netherlands, Sweden, China and South East Asia to promote the region’s leisure and business tourism offer internationally. This is fundamental to the West Midlands’ visitor economy strategy, working closely with Visit Britain and Visit England to ensure the region’s offer is promoted in key international markets. In November, the Growth Company team will also meet with representatives from 17 of VisitBritain’s international markets, to share news and discover ways to collaborate on future projects.