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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "sport"

Andy Street: Let the West Midlands be the test bed for reopening tourism and culture

Andy Street is Mayor of the West Midlands, and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

Step by step, the nation is cautiously beginning to ease out of lockdown. Primary teachers are set to welcome children. Retailers are preparing to put out the ‘open’ sign. As scientists monitor infection rates, communities are starting to venture outside, under the Government’s revised guidelines.

Now, as footballers prepare to take to the field, thoughts are also turning to how the cultural sector can raise the curtain on a new post-Covid era.

In the West Midlands, the region’s tourism and cultural businesses have been among the hardest hit by the lockdown and, with little revenue generated, they have been almost entirely reliant on Government support to avoid redundancies and closures.

However, we believe we now have a unique opportunity to re-establish cultural life as a key economic driver in the region’s post-Coronavirus recovery. Last week, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden received a letter jointly signed by myself, Fiona Allan, chair of the West Midlands Tourism Board and Martin Sutherland, CEO of Coventry City of Culture 2021, asking for our region to be the national pilot area to reopen for tourism and the arts.

By becoming a test bed, we want to help strike the right balance between safety concerns and cultural activity, setting the stage for other regions to follow. As pace-setters for tourism, our ambitious creative and cultural industries are well placed to lead the way.

A record 131 million people visited the West Midlands in 2018, a 2.6 per cent increase in visitors compared with the previous year. Behind this success lies improved facilities, attractions, transport links and, above all, a concerted effort by a united cultural sector to change perceptions of our region as a place to visit.

Even in lockdown, that ambition has been obvious. In Solihull, the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) has just set out a £45million investment plan to increase capacity of its Resorts World arena by 6,000 – to 21,000 – making it bigger than the O2 in London and Manchester Arena.

Our heritage continues to play an important part in our cultural future too. The remarkable Black Country Living Museum – one of the filming locations for Peaky Blinders – has unveiled its ‘Forging Ahead’ project, with plans to build a new attraction that will allow visitors to step back in time to the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

In Digbeth, one of Birmingham’s creative hubs, Steven Knight – the man behind Peaky Blinders – is aiming to open a film and TV studio that has already been dubbed ‘Brummiewood’.

Despite lockdown, even now in Wolverhampton, Wolves are adding another 500 seats to their Molineux stadium – a step towards their long-term transformational vision for the stadium.

The sports sector continues to drive a raft of improvements to our tourist and cultural offer – which will be supercharged by Coventry City of Culture next year and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.

This kind of ambition has made the cultural and tourism sectors vital parts of the West Midlands economy. They support 135,000 jobs in the region, contributing around £12.6bn a year to the local economy.

But they now face the daunting prospect of being one of the last sectors to be released from lockdown, and even then having to operate at a much-reduced capacity. The figures are stark. 95% of businesses in the sector here report a fall in revenue. Over 50% are struggling with cashflow. More than 40% have closed or ceased trading with a further 35% forecast to join them by August.

The Government has moved to support the arts, freeing cash for Arts Council England’s £160m fund to help deal with the pandemic’s immediate impact. Self-employed people in the arts world have also been able to benefit from the self-employed income support scheme, with cash grants of up to £2,500 per month.

We need to work with Government to identify how to safely and carefully reopen parts of these sectors, as part of the wider recovery programme for the economy. Regional leaders are keen to see staff in the sector allowed to return on a reduced, part-time basis until it is safe for normal activity to resume.

Safety, of course, must remain the number one concern, with the Government’s newly-instituted Entertainment and Events Working Group leading the way. Combining the expertise of medics and scientists with 30 organisations including the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Really Useful Group, they will help formulate how the sector reopens.

The West Midlands stands ready to act as a pilot area to help. That means developing plans that would diligently plot the routes visitors take through attractions and adjusting the lay-out of facilities for social distancing. It would mean thinking through the best methods of arrival and departure for visitors, and how to organise intermissions in events. Venues must also consider how to organise parking and how to connect safely with public transport points that deliver audiences. A pilot would provide valuable insights for UK venues preparing for life after lockdown.

The economic benefits for our region of an earlier-than-planned reopening are obvious. The West Midlands is a leader in business tourism, with a huge market share in conferencing and exhibitions, meaning the NEC group would be a key part of our pilot plans. It would provide a much-needed boost for visitor destinations such as Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick. It would also inject confidence into the region’s theatres, which are currently considering whether to cancel Christmas productions, one of their biggest annual money-spinners.

But the terrible human tragedy of those we have lost to Covid-19, and the hardships endured by so many in lockdown, make it doubly important that the reopening of our cultural sector is monitored and led by science. We cannot risk another wave of this terrible disease.

Yet we cannot underestimate the economic value of culture to the nation – Britain is a world leader in the arts – nor its ability to boost morale as we seek to find a ‘new normal’ for society.

Now is the time to start carefully considering the next act for the arts in the UK. Culture, like sport, is a shared experience that defines society. By taking onboard the advice of scientific experts and tapping into the expertise of our cultural industries, we can plot a course for its safe return. After so many months of lockdown, only then can we say that collective society is back.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Karl McCartney: Come on, Dowden – it’s time to take action to protect British football

Karl McCartney MP is the recently elected Chairman of the UKPFC APPG, and the first ever Conservative Captain of the Parliamentary Football Club.

We are now faced with a true football travesty – and I say this as a Tranmere Rovers, Liverpool, and Lincoln City fan.

Newcastle United (NUFC) – the club of England football legends, such as Alan Shearer, John Barnes, Paul Gascoigne, Kevin Keegan, Sir Bobby Robson and many others – is set to have 80 per cent of its finances supplied by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Given the country’s levels of personal prosecution, rules and regulations regarding individual freedoms, sentencing for law breakers, and the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 – whose death was allegedly ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, this news will make many people shudder.

Yet despite the legitimate concerns put forth from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Khashoggi’s fiancé, the deal seems to be going ahead.

For me, the most insidious fact about this purchase is profit. Not that profit is a bad thing – but it shouldn’t come at the expense of everything else. Yet that is the core aim of the buyers: Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the nominated Chairman, is on record as saying the most important thing for him with any investment is a double-digit return for Saudi Arabia – not English football. 

A mass investment in the club, part of our national game, akin to the likes of the Manchester City FC purchase, this is not.

Of course, Saudi Arabia, or its operatives, has for years been undermining British football by operating the now-notorious pirate broadcaster “beoutQ”. Indeed the Saudis are in the enviable position of currently not paying anything to watch world-class football – unlike every other country in the free world.  

Now, if this purchase goes through, not only will they receive their UK football on TV for free, they will also reap the rewards from legitimate rights-payers like Sky, BT and beIN Sports, who all pay huge sums for broadcast rights and whose money goes directly to grassroots British sport.

That, to me – as the Chairman of the UKPFC APPG – is mightily important and should not be overlooked.  

All the while, the rule of law – for which this country, our country, prides itself – is ridden over roughshod by the Saudis. Not for the first time, some might rightfully point out. It is an outrage. 

Two weeks ago now, my colleague, Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State, refused to be drawn on this issue when he appeared before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. Understandable, perhaps. No-one wants to confront a country which has historically been one of our biggest export markets, and so I have some limited sympathy with him. 

But frankly, the Premier League, Wimbledon, Horse Racing and Formula One are some of our country’s greatest sporting exports. And football fans across the UK, and there are many of us, deserve better from their Government than Dowden’s dodging. 

At a time when the whole country is hurting from the coronavirus crisis, early last week it emerged in another DCMS Committee inquiry session that broadcast revenues for the Premier League (totalling £3 billion) barely cover total player wages (£2.9 billion). 

Anything that undermines the value of UK football risks driving down the value of broadcast revenues, putting at risk clubs’ financial sustainability. This means that British football could struggle to attract the kind of talent we have come to expect and admire.

We know this risk is very real. beIN Media Group, one of the broadcasters most affected by Saudi piracy, has already had to shed a third of jobs and discontinued broadcasting Formula One as a direct result of beoutQ’s piracy, I am informed. That decision cost the sport seven per cent of its revenue, totalling around £30 million a year. 

Given the hit UK sport has already taken as a result of Covid-19, clubs could find themselves teetering on the brink of survival if they suffer that kind of a financial loss unilaterally.

For now, Sky, BT and beIN have said they are committed to continuing their support of the Premier League through rights purchases. But as beIN’s CEO Yousef Al-Obaidly said to the LEADERS in Sport Conference at Twickenham just last year, beoutQ represents an existential threat to the whole industry. Sky has also tried to take legal action against Saudi Arabia, to no avail. 

The BBC, one of our most cherished national institutions (if you believe the BBC and its Labour friends in and outside of the corporation), has been raising this as a grave concern with the Government and with the European Commission for years, and yet the state-sanctioned piracy continues.  

What is to be done? Last year the Government said it was committed to tackling what they recognised was an immediate threat, as a matter of urgency, yet very little has happened since. 

That is a disgrace. It’s time we took this seriously. The stakes could not be higher for UK football as an entity. It’s time to stop gambling with its future; it’s time to stop Saudi piracy. The best way to start is to block, at the very least delay, the Saudi purchase of Newcastle United – and at least impose some sanctions before allowing it to progress.

Otherwise this will lead to wage reductions (perhaps overdue), less taxes paid, and more clubs under financial pressure and vulnerable to takeover.

I believe in free markets, but I also believe in a level playing field and not trying to ‘pull a fast one’. It is time we sent them, and others around the world, a message loud and clear: hands off our football, stop stealing our national assets and play by the rules – or suffer the consequences.

For more information about the UK Parliamentary Football Club, visit www.parliamentary.soccer.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

David Gauke: Fairness and the lockdown. Why things must get worse before they get better.

David Gauke is a former Justice Secretary, and was an independent candidate in South-West Hertfordshire at the recent general election.

You don’t need to be a socialist to feel uneasy about the inequality of harm caused by the coronavirus and accompanying lockdown.

The old, poor, obese and black are much more likely to die from this politically incorrect disease than the young, rich, slim and white. Some have seen their incomes and job security devastated, others are untouched. The experience of lockdown will vary depending upon the nature of one’s home and (if you are lucky) garden.

When we are through all this, the argument will be made that it will be for the State to redistribute the detriment, to more fairly share out the harm. Just like the post-World War Two reconstruction, the demands for a more egalitarian society will be strong. We should be wary about measures that end up diminishing our ability to create wealth – thus impoverishing us all – but it would be an unwise Government that sought to ignore the national sentiment.

However, before we deal with the post-Covid world, the Government must first chart a course to get us there. Given the task ahead of us, that course is likely to mean that some people will escape the lockdown quicker than others. When it comes to inequality, things will get worse before they get better. And if the Government attempts to shy away from that, it will either be taking unnecessary risks with our public health or unnecessarily prolonging the economic turmoil.

Before expanding on that point, let me summarise where I think we are. The Prime Minister will set out a cautious set of proposals tomorrow.

he Government’s strategy appears to be to ‘test, trace and isolate’ (although Ministers seem reluctant to refer to the all-important ‘isolate’ part) and that requires infections to be substantially reduced from the likely 20,000 a day level. The R number has to stay below 1 and, if we are to pursue the South Korean model, probably needs to be some way below 1 if we are to do this anytime soon. As a consequence, the lockdown will continue.

As I argued in my last column, the ‘Stay at Home’ message has worked so well that there is no great appetite from most of the public to recover many of our traditional freedoms. Any significant relaxation of the lockdown in future will need the public’s consent, and that is unlikely to be forthcoming whilst we are bombarded with messages to stay at home.

A more nuanced message is necessary in order to give the Government the freedom to relax restrictions in future. The evidence of the last few days – with newspapers apparently encouraged to proclaim a fundamental relaxation from Monday – has not been encouraging as to the Government’s ability to convey with discipline and consistency a nuanced message. It must do better in future and resist the temptation to announce good news prematurely.

Notwithstanding the communication failures, the cautious, step-by-step approach taken by the Government is sensible. Some of the lockdown measures have been crucial in reducing infections, others have been irrelevant. What the Government cannot be sure about is which ones are which.

There appears to be clear evidence that outdoor transmission is very rare, so that will mean that some of the restrictions will be lifted. The broad principle, it would seem to me, is that, as long as you socially distance, there is no need for any other coronavirus restrictions to apply. Good news for walkers, golfers and anglers, I would have thought. Not yet good news for cricketers, sadly.

There are other restrictions where it is harder to judge. The evidence shows that younger children are highly unlikely to suffer badly from the disease, nor does it appear very likely that they transmit to adults. The closure of schools has been detrimental to economic, societal and educational prospects of the country and their re-opening is essential if we want the economy to get moving.

It looks likely that schools won’t re-open until June and, even then, only gradually. The gradual re-opening is sensible, giving the Government the opportunity to test, learn and adapt. This will help ensure that we keep control of the virus and ensure that we maintain the confidence of parents and teachers.

My concern is that if we begin this process in June, even if everything goes smoothly and it turns out that closing schools is broadly irrelevant to the spread of the disease, many pupils won’t get back into school until September.

Instead, we should pilot the partial re-opening of primary schools, combined with extensive testing of parents and teachers. Choose a geographical area where the virus is not prevalent, as well as some areas where the R number is lower than the national average. Allow pupils back and monitor closely. If, as seems likely, we don’t see a noticeable increase in infections, we can move more quickly in the rest of the country in June.

There are probably other activities where geographical distinctions could and should allow the rules to vary. Initially, this might be for piloting purposes but, at a later stage, we may need to maintain or re-impose a lockdown in those areas where the infection rate is dangerously high whilst other parts of the country as granted additional freedoms.

Some will say that this leads to a complicated message or that it is unfair to apply different approaches in different areas. But if the pace of easing the lockdown is determined by the pace of the slowest, this is going to be an even more drawn-out process. Better to allow some to escape the lockdown than none.

There will also be complaints about fairness if we allow some sectors to return to the new normal, aided by access to extensive testing. One obvious example is professional sport, played behind closed doors. But this would be a boost to morale and, if we begin our preparations now, something that could be up and running within a few weeks.

Further down the line, if we have a reliable antibodies test, those with an immunity certificate could be allowed to live a normal life. I have mentioned in a previous column that this would be divisive but it would not be right to prohibit those who are immune from engaging in activities that pose no threat to others.

And in any attempt to base restrictions on the risk to health, it is impossible to ignore the fact that there is a vast differential in the risk to life depending upon age and underlying health conditions. The likely strategy is based on suppressing the virus but if we find ourselves moving to the position of trying to live with it, rules will have to vary depending upon the risks to the individual.

Lifting the lockdown is likely to be messy and uneven. What you can do may be determined by where you live or whether you have had the disease. Some ‘worthy’ activities will remain prohibited, some ‘frivolous’ ones will be allowed. If the evidence requires it, some relaxations will need to be reversed. Much of this will offend people’s sense of fairness.

We could, of course, duck some of these challenges and treat everyone much the same. That was the right course earlier in the crisis but, as we move to the next stage, treating everyone equally will stand in the way of taking the first small steps to recovery. Fairness matters – but returning to normality quickly and safely matters more.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Andy Street: Our West Midlands recovery plan – and why no one-size-fits-all Whitehall scheme would work

Andy Street is Mayor of the West Midlands, and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

Across the West Midlands, the human impact of the coronavirus has been deep and painful. It has left people mourning relatives, friends and neighbours, while separating us from our loved ones. The number of cases and deaths here has been second only to London.

The last few days have offered some reasons for positivity, from the Prime Minister’s assertion that we have “passed the peak” of the outbreak, to the huge increase in testing. As I write, here in the West Midlands the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the NEC is yet to take a single patient, more than a week after opening – a sure sign that our region’s brilliant hospitals are creating the capacity to deal with COVID-19.

Planning has played a vital role in achieving these milestones. Now, as our NHS continues to battle the outbreak, we face the daunting task of developing plans to bring the economy out of hibernation. This is a tremendously difficult subject to face while so many lives are still being lost, but it is vital that we do so.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted a 35 per cent hit to national GDP, with the possibility that the effect on economic growth could be felt for many years. In the West Midlands, 79 per cent of businesses in the area have seen a drop in their income.

When coronavirus hit, the West Midlands was in a strong economic position. We had record employment figures and the fastest growth anywhere outside London. However, our economic mix leaves us vulnerable. Research highlights our dependence on manufacturing and high levels of business tourism, as well as a significant economic contribution from universities, all of which are affected.

Government measures to put large parts of the economy into hibernation – furloughing staff, business rates deferrals, grants and loans – were a vital first step to protect our businesses. Last week’s £600million pledge to support small firms in shared spaces, market traders, charity shops and others was a welcome addition.

Now, as we draw up future economic plans, it is vital that we learn the lessons of past downturns. To deal with the 2008 recession, the West Midlands set up taskforces with business, councils, trade unions and politicians putting aside partisan interests. This is already happening again.

In the West Midlands, we are working together to create a plan which will be specific to our needs. Recovery needs to be informed by a detailed local knowledge. There is no ‘one size fits all’ model that can be rolled out from Whitehall.

For instance, the recovery of the West Midlands automotive and construction sectors is crucial. Our cluster of automotive firms directly employs around 46,500 people.

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Local Enterprise Partnerships and our seven member boroughs of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton are drawing up plans that will set out a road map to recovery. At times like these, public authorities can play a key role in boosting confidence, through their flexible handling of services like education and transport. Business has shown it can do this too – just look at the way our supermarkets have evolved to meet the challenges they face.

However, the West Midlands requires targeted efforts to help reboot our most important sectors and support local people as the economy recovers – gear changes that will drive growth.

An Automotive Response Programme would allow vehicle manufacturing and retail to resume in a safe way, while pressing ahead with the infrastructure and Gigafactory required to make the region a global leader in electric transport.

The region’s SMEs must be supported through the Government’s £1.3 billion fund for new firms, backed by local business accelerators offering advice and training. A new Clean Growth Innovation Challenge would identify ideas to stimulate the green economy.

Big capital projects – such as stations for HS2 and a central hub for our creative economy – would stimulate growth, along with major transport projects like the expansion of the Metro across the region. I have urged the Prime Minister to bring forward £4.2 billion of national transport funding, planned for 2022, while the WMCA is pressing ahead with major projects, including cleaning up former industrial sites in Coventry and Sandwell ready for housing development.

This ground-breaking Brownfield First policy can be fast-tracked to build 200,000 new homes in the next 10 years on more former industrial sites. Our universities will also be critical to recovery, collaborating with business to boost productivity through research and development.

Finally, as we compete with the likes of Berlin, Boston and Barcelona, we will need to showcase our region to the world, building international reputation and utilising the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

Our region’s plans also look at the short, medium and long-term challenges we face. In the short term, for instance, companies will need help with social distancing measures.

In the medium term, we will need to address how the crisis has impacted on people. From the youth job market to rural communities and the consequences of enforced isolation, it will only be when lockdown is coming to an end that we really understand how it has impacted on individuals.

We will need employment and re-training schemes for those who lost their jobs, and support for charities, social enterprises, the arts, culture, sport and council services too.

We are a long way from our long-term aims, when there will be fewer restrictions with the virus in retreat. This will be the stage at which global economic trends that have emerged from the crisis will become apparent – in terms of things like technology and home working.

Those days are far off, and we have a long road ahead to get through this crisis. The most important task at hand remains to respect the lockdown restrictions, drive down the infection rate and save lives. This is how we will defeat the virus. Up and down the country, we have seen cities, towns and communities draw on local spirit to play their part.

This virus was a challenge we did not expect, which came from the other side of the world. Our answer must begin at home with local leadership backed by Government support.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Andy Street: Our West Midlands recovery plan – and why no one-size-fits-all Whitehall scheme would work

Andy Street is Mayor of the West Midlands, and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

Across the West Midlands, the human impact of the coronavirus has been deep and painful. It has left people mourning relatives, friends and neighbours, while separating us from our loved ones. The number of cases and deaths here has been second only to London.

The last few days have offered some reasons for positivity, from the Prime Minister’s assertion that we have “passed the peak” of the outbreak, to the huge increase in testing. As I write, here in the West Midlands the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the NEC is yet to take a single patient, more than a week after opening – a sure sign that our region’s brilliant hospitals are creating the capacity to deal with COVID-19.

Planning has played a vital role in achieving these milestones. Now, as our NHS continues to battle the outbreak, we face the daunting task of developing plans to bring the economy out of hibernation. This is a tremendously difficult subject to face while so many lives are still being lost, but it is vital that we do so.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted a 35 per cent hit to national GDP, with the possibility that the effect on economic growth could be felt for many years. In the West Midlands, 79 per cent of businesses in the area have seen a drop in their income.

When coronavirus hit, the West Midlands was in a strong economic position. We had record employment figures and the fastest growth anywhere outside London. However, our economic mix leaves us vulnerable. Research highlights our dependence on manufacturing and high levels of business tourism, as well as a significant economic contribution from universities, all of which are affected.

Government measures to put large parts of the economy into hibernation – furloughing staff, business rates deferrals, grants and loans – were a vital first step to protect our businesses. Last week’s £600million pledge to support small firms in shared spaces, market traders, charity shops and others was a welcome addition.

Now, as we draw up future economic plans, it is vital that we learn the lessons of past downturns. To deal with the 2008 recession, the West Midlands set up taskforces with business, councils, trade unions and politicians putting aside partisan interests. This is already happening again.

In the West Midlands, we are working together to create a plan which will be specific to our needs. Recovery needs to be informed by a detailed local knowledge. There is no ‘one size fits all’ model that can be rolled out from Whitehall.

For instance, the recovery of the West Midlands automotive and construction sectors is crucial. Our cluster of automotive firms directly employs around 46,500 people.

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Local Enterprise Partnerships and our seven member boroughs of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton are drawing up plans that will set out a road map to recovery. At times like these, public authorities can play a key role in boosting confidence, through their flexible handling of services like education and transport. Business has shown it can do this too – just look at the way our supermarkets have evolved to meet the challenges they face.

However, the West Midlands requires targeted efforts to help reboot our most important sectors and support local people as the economy recovers – gear changes that will drive growth.

An Automotive Response Programme would allow vehicle manufacturing and retail to resume in a safe way, while pressing ahead with the infrastructure and Gigafactory required to make the region a global leader in electric transport.

The region’s SMEs must be supported through the Government’s £1.3 billion fund for new firms, backed by local business accelerators offering advice and training. A new Clean Growth Innovation Challenge would identify ideas to stimulate the green economy.

Big capital projects – such as stations for HS2 and a central hub for our creative economy – would stimulate growth, along with major transport projects like the expansion of the Metro across the region. I have urged the Prime Minister to bring forward £4.2 billion of national transport funding, planned for 2022, while the WMCA is pressing ahead with major projects, including cleaning up former industrial sites in Coventry and Sandwell ready for housing development.

This ground-breaking Brownfield First policy can be fast-tracked to build 200,000 new homes in the next 10 years on more former industrial sites. Our universities will also be critical to recovery, collaborating with business to boost productivity through research and development.

Finally, as we compete with the likes of Berlin, Boston and Barcelona, we will need to showcase our region to the world, building international reputation and utilising the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

Our region’s plans also look at the short, medium and long-term challenges we face. In the short term, for instance, companies will need help with social distancing measures.

In the medium term, we will need to address how the crisis has impacted on people. From the youth job market to rural communities and the consequences of enforced isolation, it will only be when lockdown is coming to an end that we really understand how it has impacted on individuals.

We will need employment and re-training schemes for those who lost their jobs, and support for charities, social enterprises, the arts, culture, sport and council services too.

We are a long way from our long-term aims, when there will be fewer restrictions with the virus in retreat. This will be the stage at which global economic trends that have emerged from the crisis will become apparent – in terms of things like technology and home working.

Those days are far off, and we have a long road ahead to get through this crisis. The most important task at hand remains to respect the lockdown restrictions, drive down the infection rate and save lives. This is how we will defeat the virus. Up and down the country, we have seen cities, towns and communities draw on local spirit to play their part.

This virus was a challenge we did not expect, which came from the other side of the world. Our answer must begin at home with local leadership backed by Government support.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

George Freeman: Hancock’s critics will look for failures in his 100,000 test goal. But his ambition will drive Britain forward.

George Freeman MP is former Minister for Life Science at Dept Health and Business, Chair of the Prime Minister’s Policy Board and founder of the National Leadership Centre. 

In 1947, Nye Bevan announced the creation of a National Health Service. To a population battered by the depression of the 1930s and the war it seemed an unbelievable post-war promise.

In 1960, JFK announced that America would put a man on the moon. It seemed an impossibly audacious dream.

In 1979, Margaret Thatcher promised to regenerate the industrial wasteland of the London Docklands into a beacon of prosperity. They scoffed.

In 2012, when the first human genome had been sequenced at a cost of $100 million, David Cameron announced the UK would lead the world in genomics by sequencing the entire genome of 100,000 NHS patients. Commentators sniggered.

But the cynics were wrong.

Not only were these ambitious targets achieved. But all of them went on to fundamentally change the world’s understanding of what was possible. 

The NHS quickly became more than its founders ever dreamed. The JFK moonshot laid the foundations for ending the Cold War by bankrupting the Soviet Union and securing a 50-year American technological revolution. The London Docklands and Canary Wharf are now global beacons of regeneration and prosperity beyond even Thatcher’s wildest dreams. 

The 2012 pledge of 100,000 genomes – the flagship of the UK Life Science Industrial Strategy I oversaw as the first ever Minister for Life Science – has now led to UK leadership in genetic medicine, a global race to sequence resulting in the cost falling to €100 per person, and sees the UK now on target to sequence one million genomes (announced by, yes, Matt Hancock.)

So what about today? In March, the Prime Minister pledged that the UK would go from a handful to 250,000 tests a day, and Hancock announced that we would have 100,000 by the end of April. That’s today.  

Many commentators are circling over the Health Secretary like birds of prey spying an opportunity for a “gotcha” moment.

Someone will doubtless make the idiotic call for an apology or even a resignation. In the social media game of one-upmanship there are no rules.

An accomplished cricketer, the Health Secretary will defend his wicket, ducking the bouncers and parrying away the spin balls.  And the daily media cycle will then trigger a cycle of Twitter trolling, social media memes and vicious personal and political attacks on the Health Secretary for having “failed to meet his own target”.

So, was it a mistake to announce a target that he didn’t know he could hit? 

No. Stretch targets are a vital for any leader.

Used properly, in government, business, sport and all walks of endeavour, they have the effect of galvanising the level of culture change, ambition, pace and delivery which is needed. 

Making that happen is a big part of what leadership is about. Whole libraries of academic literature, business school teaching and leadership manuals look at the science of stretch targets in leadership. 

But leadership manuals cannot begin to capture the pressure under which leaders usually operate.

Nor do they encompass the loneliness of leadership which, by its very nature, is about taking personal responsibility for big decisions with big implications.

In the Prime Minister and Health Secretary’s case – while both in isolation.

Churchill was in a bunker, yes, but it was packed with busy people constantly sharing intelligence and insights and carrying out his orders.

Crisis management by telephone from isolation is a whole new challenge. 

The truth is that this crisis represents a genuinely unprecedented challenge to ministers but also to our creaking and overly bureaucratic Whitehall machine, and our local government services pared back to the bone after the financial crash.

After 15 years as a technology entrepreneur before coming to Parliament I’ve long argued that our system of silo’d, centralised, analogue government was already struggling to handle the pace of innovation, digitalisation, decentralisation, personal empowerment and the service level expectations most citizens expect today and can get in the private sector. 

The need for rapid change in the pace and mechanism of delivery of HMG is more urgent than ever.

Galvanising this machine to move at pace in a matter of weeks – for example, to build a network of Nightingale hospitals to ensure the NHS could withstand the epidemic – is no mean feat.

Tomorrow we will see how far off the 100,000 tests a day we are. The Health Secretary might pull it off. With the extraordinary increase in industrial capacity and the pace of test production (overseen by Hancock and his ministers), the issue now is getting the message out to ensure that the volumes of people now eligible for tests know how to get one.

I suspect we will have the testing capacity in place to do 100,000 tests a day tomorrow but perhaps not quite the public uptake of tests to hit 100k (in no small part because so many commentators have consistently focused on telling everyone how far away testing is.)

If it isn’t 100,000 tomorrow, I predict that we will very soon be at 100,000 tests a day. And more in the coming weeks to prepare for a controlled phasing of the lockdown exit. In most people’s eyes that is a phenomenal achievement.

And more in the coming weeks to prepare for a controlled phasing of the lockdown exit. In most people’s eyes that is a phenomenal achievement. 

In the febrile media environment in which ministers now have to operate, however, this will be deemed a “missed target”.

But in the eyes of the public, I detect a much more forgiving and intuitive understanding of the reality of making stuff happen in government at pace.

Westminster’s “gotcha” politics has little cut-through with voters, who understand that getting big stuff done fast is hard.

Most of my constituents are hugely sympathetic to the fact that the Prime Minister and Health Secretary have actually had Covid-19, which only makes their continuing appetite to lead and take responsibility for the rest of us even more impressive. 

In due course academics, analysts and historians will come to assess the successes and failures of this emergency and the lessons for future pandemics. There will be many. 

In the post-crisis calls for enquiries and the inevitable political point-scoring, let’s not forget some fundamental but inconvenient truths: Ministers – and chief scientists and government advisers and officials – are only human, and doing their very best in an extraordinary national emergency.

For all the inevitable lessons and mistakes that are bound to have been made in responding to this crisis, let’s not forget the need to view decision making in the context of what was known, believed (and being called for in the media) at the time, and the hard truth that no great endeavour was ever reached without mistakes. Or bold stretch targets.

This crisis has exposed all sorts of weaknesses in our global, national and local resilience to pandemics. 

But it has also catalysed a huge culture change in our society, economy and the way government agencies and private sector can work together better to deliver innovation at pace. 

Let us ensure that in the race to blame we don’t overlook the race to lead – and foster and support innovation and leadership.

It’s the only way we will get out of this mess and build a brighter future. 

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Andy Street: For the West Midlands, the Commonwealth Games have already arrived

Andy Street is Mayor of the West Midlands, and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

The announcement in 2017 that Birmingham was to host the Commonwealth Games fired the starting gun on nearly five years of preparations. We knew that we had a great deal to do to create a Games that would showcase both the Second City and the wider region in 2022.

At the Games, more than 6,500 athletes carrying the hopes of 71 countries will compete in 264 events across 18 sports. But alongside those sports there will also be a huge cultural programme, and an unprecedented opportunity for local businesses to showcase their work to a global audience.

A major International Business Expo is expected to run alongside the Games, highlighting and promoting commerce in the region and sending out the clear message that Britain is open for business post-Brexit. Our ambition is not only an unparalleled programme of sport, but also trade, tourism and investment. Business leaders are already forming the Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce; a membership-based international gateway for firms wishing to develop bilateral trade opportunities in Commonwealth countries.

We already enjoy fantastic sporting facilities – places like Alexander Stadium, Villa Park, Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Arena Birmingham and the Ricoh in Coventry – a fact which was a key part of the region’s bid to host the Games. However, vital investment in infrastructure has been necessary to prepare for the influx of visitors and athletes, from accommodation to transport, which has also ensured that the whole of the region, not just Birmingham, can benefit.

This will be the second biggest sporting event ever held in the UK, surpassed only by the London Olympics, and the Government is providing 75% of the £778 million costs, with Birmingham and regional partners contributing the rest.

This Government funding is supported by a hard-nosed business case, that draws upon the long-term benefits generated by the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Glasgow as well as the London Olympics. Those experiences showed how such events can literally change the trajectory of a place. In the West Midlands, where an economic revival is already underway, the boost brought by the Games will be perfectly timed.

With such significant public funding, we are focused on creating a lasting legacy. We are seeing new and revamped venues taking shape, new transport links, and valuable business ties – but the real target is a renewed sense of civic pride in citizens of the West Midlands, whether through their participation as volunteers, spectators, local hosts, or even athletes. We want everyone to feel it’s their games.

However, while we look forward to the enduring legacies after the closing ceremony, we have been equally determined to garner immediate benefits from this huge investment. They may not start until 2022, but In the West Midlands, the Commonwealth Games have already arrived.

In the last few weeks, there have been a number of exciting announcements. The Games’ new dynamic logo has given it a recognisable identity. The addition of three new sports – Women’s Cricket, Beach Volleyball and Para Table Tennis – means the 2022 Commonwealth Games will have the biggest female and para sport programme in history. International law firm Gowling WLG has been revealed as the Games’ first official sponsor, the first of many to provide business backing.

But it is the physical changes that are taking shape in the run-up to the Games across the region that are already bringing benefits, in terms of skills, jobs and connectivity.

With hundreds of thousands expected to visit our region, we are putting in place a transport network to carry them efficiently to the dozen main venues. That means new railway stations in Perry Barr, near the Alexander Stadium, and at Birmingham University.

Events aren’t restricted to Brum, with swimming taking place in the Black Country, netball in Coventry, bowls in Warwickshire and a number of sports at the NEC, in Solihull. So, rapid ‘sprint’ bus routes are being rolled out to serve key venues, while the Metro system continues to extend into the Black Country. Crucially, these transport investments support economic growth by giving local people access to jobs and link our communities.

Another example of how the Games are already paying dividends is the Skills Hub that has been established in Perry Barr. A huge site in this area, which was formerly occupied by Birmingham City University, has been cleared to create an athletes’ village. Backed by £165 million of Government funds – a further sign of its commitment to the West Midlands – this village will be converted into 1,400 homes for the community after the Games.

However, immediate benefit is being felt by the creation of the £100,000 Skills Hub in partnership with main contractor Lendlease. We know the construction industry in our region will need 50,000 more trained staff by 2030. Funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the hub will offer local people free construction training and a guaranteed job interview after completing a 20-day course.

Work is progressing well on the village, while the nearby Alexander Stadium is getting a revamp that will increase its capacity to 40,000 and make it the home of British athletics. A new aquatics centre in Sandwell – the only venue being built from scratch for the Games – is also providing construction opportunities in the Black Country, once again spreading the immediate benefits of the Games beyond Birmingham.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson oversaw the benefits of the 2012 Olympics for London, and has shown real interest in how 2022 could do the same for Birmingham and the West Midlands a decade later.

Thanks to joined-up thinking, we are already benefitting – the Commonwealth Games are expected to create an average of over 4,000 jobs per year in the run-up to 2022. Economically, we are winning long before the first medal is presented.

There is just one more benefit that we won’t see until the Games get underway – and that is the opportunity to proudly showcase our region in the global spotlight. Birmingham is the UK’s most diverse city, where it is said you can see the world in a day. In 2022, the world will come to us, and we are looking forward to showing just what Britain can do in a post-Brexit world.

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U.S. soccer: We’ve paid the women’s team more than we’ve paid the men’s team since 2010 — even though they bring in much less revenue

Westlake Legal Group r-4 U.S. soccer: We’ve paid the women’s team more than we’ve paid the men’s team since 2010 — even though they bring in much less revenue World Cup Work Women us soccer The Blog sport Rapinoe Pay men FIFA equal compensation Carlos Cordeiro

I fear the only fair solution is to pay our garbage national men’s team more.

No, actually, this is more complicated than it seems at first glance.

According to a letter released Monday by U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro, the federation paid out $34.1 million in salary and game bonuses to the women between 2010 and 2018 as opposed to $26.4 million paid to the men. The total does not include the value of benefits received only by the women, like health care…

Comparing compensation between the two teams is difficult because the pay structure is based on different collective bargaining agreements…

USSF also says the men’s team generates more revenue. The women’s team generated $101.3 million over the course of 238 games between 2009 and 2019 while the men generated $185.7 over 191 games, according to the federation.

The killer: “WNT games have generated a net profit (ticket revenues minus event expenses) in only two years (2016 and 2017). Across the entire 11-year period, WNT games generated a net loss of $27.5 million.” Likewise, individual men’s matches generated more than twice as much revenue over this period than women’s matches did. U.S. soccer is paying the women more — while losing money on them. And the women want … more money?

Case closed, then! They’re being paid more than fairly. But wait — players on the men’s team agree with the women that they’re underpaid:

Note the second paragraph in particular. If that’s true then U.S. soccer is accusing the women’s team of being a revenue-loser essentially based only on the gate at matches, without accounting for TV right and ads — not to mention the value in terms of prestige that back-to-back World Cups supplies to a program that’s a borderline laughingstock on the men’s side.

There’s more. The men’s team actually received more money ($41 million) overall than the women’s team since 2010 due to the fact that bonuses paid by FIFA (not by U.S. soccer) for World Cup appearances are waaaaay more generous for men’s teams than for women’s. ESPN notes that the 2018 World Cup winner, France, alone received more money than the entire 24-team field did in the Women’s World Cup. That is, a bad-to-middling U.S. men’s team still comes out ahead in compensation to a juggernaut in the women’s sport.

There’s another key difference between how the men and women are paid:

The federation pays U.S. women’s team members per-game payments for national-team play along with professional-team salaries for playing in the National Women’s Soccer League, as all 23 members of the women’s World Cup team do. The federation doesn’t pay professional salaries for the men.

A key divergence in how the teams are compensated has to do with their bargaining agreements, not their genders. The women negotiated a salary-plus-bonuses scheme, the men got a more complicated structure in which you’re paid “by training camp call-ups, game appearances and through performance bonuses.” The bonuses are more generous on the men’s side, but the men don’t have guaranteed pay like the women do. Arguably the women sacrificed some incentives in return for better income security. Maybe they had no choice: A player capable of making the U.S. men’s national team might be lavishly compensated in a pro league somewhere even if he’s not starting whereas the weaker commercial demand for the women’s sport requires women players to demand that the U.S. soccer federation to kick in with guaranteed professional pay for star players.

But then that’s the whole debate here, isn’t it? How much should public demand influence the players’ pay relative to achievement? “All U.S. soccer proved was that the women must consistently win at the highest level to approach what the men make while mired in mediocrity and underachievement,” said sports journalist Tanya Ray Fox, referring to the near-parity between what the women’s and men’s teams received from U.S. soccer since 2010. But if there are more eyeballs on the men for their inferior product, why shouldn’t they receive more for their mediocrity? Judi Dench is a better actor than The Rock, but if the latter can drum up more box office than the former, why shouldn’t he receive a bigger check? Like all sports, soccer is ultimately entertainment. At base, Megan Rapinoe and company are arguing with the fans for not having better taste.

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Aussie rugby star: Help me fight my ban from the national team for believing that homosexuality is sinful

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Remember him? I blogged about his case last month. Israel Folau’s a major rugby star in Australia and a Bible-believing Christian prone to posting things on social media which — well, which Christians believe. Like this:

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Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him. _______________ Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these , adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19‭-‬21 KJV _______________ Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38 KJV _______________ And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Acts 17:30 KJV _______________

A post shared by Israel Folau (@izzyfolau) on Apr 10, 2019 at 1:18am PDT

Still not sure about “drunks” there, but eh.

That’s the post that ended his career as a member of the Wallabies, Australia’s national team. The panel that barred him concluded that the sport needed to “stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork,” never mind that Folau didn’t single out gays and didn’t deem them condemned. This was an invitation to all sinners to repent. The rugby governing body seems to have determined that to express this well-known Christian belief — or even merely to hold it? — is tantamount to creating a hostile workplace for gay teammates and employees. If Folau has attempted to shame any gay friends or colleagues or to pressure them to repent in his contact with them as part of the rugby team, I’m unaware of it. The ruling in this case seems to be, straightforwardly, that you cannot evangelize as a Christian even on your own time and represent Australia. If forced to choose in the name of “inclusion” whether to include gays or Christians, the sport chooses the former. Never mind that Folau himself never demanded that such a choice be made.

He’s fighting the ban in court and trying to raise big bucks to do it. The GoFundMe page he launched to pay legal costs brought in more than $750,000 — before it was yanked offline by the company as a violation of their policy. “We do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion,” said management in a statement. The “exclusion” of what? Of gays from … heaven? It wasn’t Folau who set that policy as far as Christians are concerned, I’m afraid. Meanwhile, some critics, not content to drive him from his own sport, are apparently now targeting Folau’s wife to see if they can get her kicked out of her own sport for having helped promote her husband’s GoFundMe campaign, per Rod Dreher.

He’s now launched a new fundraising page at the Australian Christian Lobby with a personal appeal in the form of the video below to help promote it. Result: More than $1.6 million raised in just 24 hours, making his case a bona fide international cause celebre among Christians. And not just Christians. Dreher flagged this notable op-ed from a few weeks ago by bioethicist Peter Singer, not normally an ally of the right’s. Singer takes freedom of conscience seriously, though:

If Rugby Australia had existed in the first century of the Christian era, and Paul had had enough talent to be a contracted player, Rugby Australia would presumably have ripped up his contract once his letter to the Corinthians became public. That makes it quite bizarre that Castle should have justified Folau’s dismissal by saying, “People need to feel safe and welcomed in our game regardless of their gender, race, background, religion, or sexuality.” Did she mean that you can feel welcomed in rugby, regardless of your religious beliefs, as long as you don’t express them in public? That looks a lot like telling homosexuals that they can do what they want in the privacy of their bedroom, but they must not show their affection in public because some people might find it offensive…

[T]ry putting yourself in the position of someone with Folau’s beliefs. You see people on a path toward a terrible fate – much worse than getting lung cancer, because death will not release them from their agony – and they are blind to what awaits them. Wouldn’t you want to warn them, and give them the chance to avoid that awful fate? I assume that is what Folau believes he is doing. He even tells homosexuals that Jesus loves them, and calls on them to repent so that they can avoid burning in hell for eternity. That doesn’t sound like hate speech.

Folau’s Instagram post “no more expresses hatred toward homosexuals than cigarette warnings express hatred toward smokers,” notes Singer, quite rightly. If you want to throw him a few bucks to help the legal battle for freedom of conscience, feel free by following the link above. But do note: Folau’s net worth is estimated in the millions thanks to his rugby contracts and endorsement deals (some of which he’s now lost), and some critics are skeptical that he needs anywhere near the $3 million he’s requesting in order to conduct this court fight. Greed is a sin too, they note. Repent!

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Andy Street: How cultural renaissance in the West Midlands is driving economic growth

Andy Street is the Mayor of the West Midlands and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

Creativity has always been at the heart of the West Midlands’ success. It was our creative spark that fired the industrial revolution, igniting a thousand trades where, alongside the furnaces of heavy industry, skilled local artisans fashioned jewellery, coins and trinkets that sold across the globe.

In the West Midlands of the 21st Century, culture and creative are critical, rapidly-growing parts of our economy. They not only define what a place is like to live in, they drive innovation and future jobs, and form a key part of our Local Industrial Strategy. The creative industries are growing at three times the national average.

Under a Conservative mayor we are seeing a cultural renaissance that is driving economic growth, equipping younger people with vital new skills, enticing tourists and uniting our communities by tapping into their diversity. Through targeted Government support and local leadership, once again that creative spark is lit – but this time it is illuminating new opportunities as well as powering industry.

We also want it to fire young imaginations, giving students the skills they will need to flourish in the constantly-changing cultural economy. This week, for example, two pioneering new free schools in the West Midlands were announced by the Department for Education.

In central Birmingham, a free school is being founded by BOA Stage and Screen Production. This will be an exciting 16-19 specialist college, set up by the Birmingham Ormiston Academy, backed by a number of industry sponsors and partners including Birmingham City University. It will offer a range of vocational and high-level technical qualifications for students wishing to enter TV, Film or Theatre professions.

In Sandwell, in what is believed to be a world first, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is partnering with Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust to create the Shireland CBSO school. This non-selective, non-fee paying school will admit its first cohort of pupils in September 2021, at the end of the orchestra’s centenary celebrations.

The home of the CBSO – Birmingham’s Symphony Hall – will also be opening up its doors thanks to funding that aims to turn it into community arts space akin to the Southbank Centre. With support from the Arts Council’s Capital funding programme, the venue has been awarded £4.5 million of National Lottery money which, with funding from Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, will update Symphony Hall’s foyers, create new learning and participation spaces.

While Symphony Hall, one of Brum’s best modern buildings gets a new lease of life, across the city centre a cultural icon built by our Victorian forefathers is also looking to the future.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery are to launch a £40 million fundraising appeal to create new galleries and a separate cultural exhibition centre in the east of the city. The grand old museum wants to redesign its galleries and exhibition spaces, including the creation of a new children’s gallery to inspire youngsters.

Much of our cultural renaissance has been funded in this innovative way, with local businesses and charitable trusts providing backing alongside central funding. One great example is the Black Country Living Museum, the huge open-air site most recognisable across the UK as one of the regular backdrops for TV’s Peaky Blinders.

A cultural enterprise with an annual turnover of £6.2m, the museum’s annual surpluses are reinvested into caring for its impressive collection of buildings, vehicles and local artefacts.

Now the Dudley site is aiming to attract 500,000 visitors by 2025 as part of an ambitious expansion project, which will see an entire new town built, highlighting Black Country history through the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.

It has secured £9.4 million from the National Lottery Heritage to reach the £23 million needed to complete the expansion, with work expected to be finished by Spring 2022.

More than a dozen charitable trusts, including some bearing famous local names such as Owen and Cadbury, have contributed to this grand scheme, alongside support from Midlands Engine and the Arts Council for England.

This approach ensures the tax-payer does not bear the entire financial burden of cultural improvements, while encouraging local ownership and investment in them.

Elsewhere across the region, areas once synonymous with industry are being reborn as creative quarters that are regenerating neighbourhoods and driving economic growth.

In Birmingham, Digbeth’s Custard Factory – once the home of Birds custard – is a creative hub surrounded by challenging and innovative street art, while the city’s Jewellery Quarter has become one of the UK’s most vibrant cultural communities, and a highly sought-after place to live.

Devolution has made much of this possible, with local decision making building cultural networks that feed creativity.

Under my leadership, the West Midlands Combined Authority is setting up a network to help the film and TV industry engage with the West Midlands. The Screen Industry Body will be an agile, responsive regional network, reflective of the rapidly-changing nature of the screen sector, and creating a single point of entry.

Elsewhere, a new region-wide Culture Board is linking up with organisations across the West Midlands to strengthen the sector, and ensure that investment in areas such as housing and transport facilitate culture – by placing art in railway stations, for example, or along new sprint bus routes.

Martin Sutherland, Executive Director of Coventry  City of Culture 2021, is chairing this new board to ensure our region links up to the festival, which is our most important creative and cultural event by far. It will be the crowning glory of the West Midlands’ cultural renaissance.

The City of Culture will provide a vehicle to showcase just what the region has to offer, and Coventry is rising to the challenge. Excitement is growing not only among the public but throughout the business community in Coventry and Warwickshire, where the level of support from commerce and the community is setting a new standard for the region.

Curated by Cultural Director Chenine Bhathena, the festival will not only celebrate the wonderful creative side of Coventry, the programme of events will also address many of the social issues facing the city, using culture to reach out to diverse communities.

Finally, Creative industries in the West Midlands will benefit from a £1.2m boost from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as part of the ‘Creative Scale Up’ programme.

Launched by Creative Industries Minister and Stourbridge MP Margot James, the money will be used by the WMCA to link creative companies to investors.

From region-wide networks to grass-root festivals, from pioneering schools to reimagined museums, the West Midlands is experiencing a cultural renaissance that is not only complementing our economic growth, it is actively driving it.

There is one other benefit, and that is how our region is perceived around the globe. With investment in transport networks and improved air links, we are becoming a tourism hotspot.

The Boston Globe recently described Brum as ‘visionary’. The New York Times says the Second City is “England’s heartland metropolis: big-shouldered, friendly and fun.” Tourism has become a vital part of our economy. Birmingham alone welcomed 41.8 million visitors in 2017, a 6.9 per cent increase from 2016 and generating £7.1 billion worth of economic benefit.

The vibrant culture of the UK’s most diverse region is taking visitors by surprise. With the Commonwealth Games in 2022 we can look forward to an influx of visitors hungry to discover more. By working closely with Government to target investment, we have rekindled that creative spark that is one again catching the eye of the world.

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