Bishop of Birmingham highlights potential legacy for young people from Birmingham Commonwealth Games

Birminghamsizedebate171219bOn 9th July 2019 the House of Lords considered amendments to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill.  The Bishop of Birmingham commented on amendments:

The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, perhaps I may comment on one or two of these amendments in one go. I was delighted to hear the enthusiasm for Birmingham. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, did not say where he had been on holiday, but I hope he will choose Birmingham on a future occasion.

The things I would like to comment on in slightly more detail arise in particular in Amendment 5. Perhaps I may take the chance to commend the Minister and the Government, and the co-operation that there has been with local authorities and the local committee in getting the Games up and running in very short order. Time, energy, skill and money have been committed to make them a success.

The details, of course, are important, and on the housing issue—proposed new subsection (6)—there is an attitude of co-operation between different authorities. It is understood that the organising committee itself is not responsible directly for the future of housing: that is Birmingham City Council. There are already targets for social and affordable housing in the council’s development plan, with a figure a wee bit less than the 50% mentioned on the list: it is actually 35%. But it is true that the number of 1,400 dwellings out of the village will include affordable and social housing of some 24% in future plans. This is a sign of the importance of getting these targets and ideas firmly in an agreed legacy plan.

I go on to proposed new subsection (2)(e). Noble Lords are adding more and more items. In terms of legacy, it is important to realise that this city region—no doubt this has been mentioned in debate—is one of the youngest and most diverse in Europe. In fact, the successful advertising video that won the Games was called “Go the Distance” and had huge numbers of diverse people from all sorts of backgrounds and with all sorts of skills, demonstrating what a lively and vibrant city it is.

One legacy that is very important to the chairman of the committee, John Crabtree, and the chief exec, Ian Reid, is the skills lab. During the process of delivering building projects, ambassadorial projects and all sorts of things associated with Games of this size, young people will be able not just to join in for the Games but to have an opportunity to develop their own skills. Your Lordships may like to know that a plan is well advanced for co-operation with the Learning and Skills Council, worth £1.5 million. There is also the opportunity for the 12,500 young people who may be needed in roles at that stage to combine those from more disadvantaged areas with those who may already be highly able, and perhaps in higher education. This would be a kind of visionary buddy scheme, so that those less advantaged and not yet skilled will participate in a new college course at FE level. They will come out of the Games experience with a skill and accreditation that will perhaps enable them to go out and get a job in the wider world.

I want to back up these visionary and, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, said, quite demanding expectations for the worldwide standards that we need to embed in our local communities. I am quite sure that a charter of the kind mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, would express the values that we already try to live up to in Birmingham, Solihull and the region. Similarly, to have the sustainable development goals threading through this will be hugely popular with people of faith—and of no faith—who care about a structure in the world and values that are of universal interest but applied locally. Without them being an extra burden, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, hinted, on the very short timetable for achieving a lasting legacy and a really exciting and fun Games, I hope we will take up the challenge locally to promote and live the values in both that charter and the SDGs.

Amendment 4 Moved by Lord Rooker

4: Clause 1, page 1, line 11, at end insert—

“( ) The Secretary of State may provide by regulations for Birmingham City Council to raise a hotel occupancy levy and to provide financial assistance equivalent to the proceeds of the levy, after costs of administration, to the Organising Committee as part of the local contribution for the purpose of delivering the Games.”

The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I support the spirit of partnership between local and national fundraising for this specific, ring-fenced purpose, as described by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker.

The numbers are quite interesting: it is estimated that £1 a night for the three-year period from 2020 to 2022 might bring in £4.5 million to £5 million per year, which could possibly amount to £15 million of local contributions being raised—the gap is probably £40 million. At least 8% of what is required locally by these boroughs could be raised in this way.

I know that the proposal is unpopular in certain spheres, particularly among those who count tourism and visitor numbers as vital to their economy—as we do in Birmingham and Solihull, which are popular conference and holiday venues, and we want to develop that. However, in deciding where to stay, a hotel price can vary from £20 to £25, depending on the day of the week, so £1 a night does not seem too burdensome. A small charge could also help motivate people to supporting a national and an international Games, which could make them feel good and even make them want to come back and attend the Games themselves.

I ask the Government to give this serious consideration as a partnership between local commitment and national taxation.

Lord Cashman (Non-Afl): My Lords, I had no intention of speaking in this debate, but I rise having represented the West Midlands for 15 years in the European Parliament. As a non-aligned Member, I would still like to call the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, my noble friend, because this is an eminently sensible idea. The proposal, as outlined and supported by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, builds on that in asking for a pilot. I urge the Government to think about it. The only thing that I would suggest, coming from a working-class background in the East End, is to make it a bit more attractive by, instead of £1, making it 99p.


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