Call to re­lax rules as city faces curry chef short­age

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Neil Elkes Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Cor­re­spon­dent

BIRM­ING­HAM is fac­ing a curry cri­sis be­cause of a chronic short­age of chefs – prompt­ing calls to re­lax strict im­mi­gra­tion rules.

West Mid­lands mayor Andy Street is urg­ing the gov­ern­ment to cut red tape to al­low more curry houses to re­cruit chefs from abroad.

The Bangladeshi Caterer’s As­so­ci­a­tion warns that two restau­rants are clos­ing a week na­tion­wide. Chi­nese restau­rants are fac­ing sim­i­lar pres­sures.

Un­der cur­rent reg­u­la­tions a skilled chef must earn at least £29,570 a year af­ter de­duc­tions to be al­lowed to work in the UK. But that means only-high end Miche­lin-star level restau­rants can af­ford to im­port staff.

The rules are also stricter for restau­rants of­fer­ing a take­away or fast food ser­vice.

The short­age is said to be par­tic­u­larly acute in Birm­ing­ham and the West Mid­lands, where the curry in­dus­try is worth around £25 mil­lion a year. It is es­ti­mated that some 600 restau­rants across the re­gion em­ploy 5,400 peo­ple.

The gov­ern­ment is con­sult­ing over changes to its list of “short­age oc­cu­pa­tions” to be granted spe­cial im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus as it ne­go­ti­ates our exit from the EU

That list in­cludes doc­tors, nurses, en­gi­neers and even bal­let dancers.

“Al­though the is­sue of en­gi­neers and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, in­clud­ing nurses, is acutely felt in the West Mid­lands, the one spe­cific is­sue I would like to raise is the one of chefs,” said Mr Street, who says the in­come cut-off point is far too high.

“A huge start­ing point would be to elim­i­nate the clause which states that the es­tab­lish­ment em­ploy­ing the chef must not be in a take­away es­tab­lish­ment.

“As most curry houses and Chi­nese restau­rants dou­ble up as take­aways, this makes it even more dif­fi­cult for them.

“The de­cline of the curry in­dus­try is some­thing which af­fects us all and some­thing we should be look­ing at se­ri­ously.”

Andy Munro, of the Birm­ing­ham Balti As­so­ci­a­tion, said fewer chil­dren are go­ing into the fam­ily busi­ness.

“It is a big prob­lem for our busi­nesses,” he said. “The stan­dard curry and balti houses are strug­gling to get staff. Young peo­ple don’t want to work in a hot kitchen over a high flame, un­less it is a place with the ku­dos of a Miche­lin star.”

> Birm­ing­ham curry houses face a short­age of for­eign chefs

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