Cuts to Birmingham's marketing budget
Late last year when the Office of National Statistics (ONS) announced that, of Britain's eight core cities, unemployment rates in Birmingham were the highest, the harsh realities of the credit crunch were drawn into uncomfortably sharp focus.
The council at the time admitted that due to our local economy relying more heavily than most cities' on public sector jobs, Birmingham would be particularly hard-hit by public spending cuts, and that manufacturing would “remain the main source of gross job loss... over the next ten years”.
The one glimmer of hope on an otherwise dark horizon, according to council regeneration strategists was “in promoting the visitor economy”. In other words, tourism. Venues such as the NIA, ICC and NEC, as well as the Bull Ring shopping centre were held up as being vital to the city's ability to attract visitors and thereby keep the economy afloat.
But even this lifeline is now under threat as the council's budget cuts bite into yet another aspect of public sector funding: Marketing Birmingham has had its annual funding cut by 11%, greatly reducing it's ability to promote the city to potential visitors.
The cuts to the city's marketing budget may seem relatively inconsequential to some, in comparison to the cuts being made to other, more high-profile services. But at a time when people have less disposable income in any case, Birmingham's ability to attract visitors from outside the region is of greater importance than ever. A reduction in the revenue generated by the city's service industries and retail sectors will have knock-on effects throughout the local economy.
Although marketing probably does not feature highly on most people's list of concerns, it may prove to be an under-estimated cog in our city's economic machinery.