Call to relax rules as city faces curry chef shortage
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