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Cultural Unions Submit Freedom of Information Request to West Midlands Mayor Andy Street

Midlands cultural sector trade unions have called upon West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, to declare what discussions he has had with the DCMS Minister, Oliver Dowden, in order to protect our vital local cultural sector.

Published: 09 December 2020 | 2:19 PM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:32 PM
Photograph of a band performing on a small stage, we can see a guitarist and someone blurred but at a keyboard.
"The workers voice is being ignored, and that has to change if we are to have any meaningful roadmap through and out of this pandemic.”

Midlands TUC Culture & Leisure Industries Committee (CLIC) Chairperson, and MU Midlands Regional Organiser, 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 (which is key to this question), 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% of whom and according to Government statistics, have received no help at all under any of the Government schemes like the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

Our cultural workforce is being decimated

TUC CLIC Chair Stephen 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% 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. The workers voice is being ignored, and that has to change if we are to have any meaningful roadmap through and out of this pandemic.”

The self employed income support scheme simply isn’t fit for purpose

Shadow West Midlands Mayor, Liam Byrne, supportive of the unions’ calls added, “The restrictions for our region have devastated the arts and culture community which works round the year to bring our communities together. Arts and culture are the secret ingredient in our community spirit and we can't afford to lose either.

“We know that the self employed income support scheme simply isn't fit for purpose. It leaves out nearly half the self employed, many of whom work in the arts and culture sector. 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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