Plans for a new £80 million headquarters for the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce have been put on hold and staff face a wages cut as the recession deepens.
The downturn has dealt a dual blow to the Chamber, with gross pay reductions of 5.4 per cent for 117 staff. And long-established proposals for a new headquarters to replace its 40-year-old Edgbaston home and rejuvenate the area have now been put on ice.
The cutbacks will see staff, who currently work a standard 37.5 hours a week, have their hours cut to 35 in a bid to save tens of thousands of pounds a year.
Chamber PR manager John Lamb said: “We are cutting the working week of staff from 37.5 hours to 35. The pay reduction will be 5.4 per cent before tax.
“Performance-related payments will go on but will not be added to salaries and will now be a lump sum.
“This is a response to the recession, which has stalled the Chamber’s property plans. The result has been higher than desired overheads due to the costs inherent in the existing building.”
The Chamber occupies a prime commercial property site in Edgbaston for which planning permission to redevelop has been granted.
Chamber chief executive Jerry Blackett said: “The recession has forced us to place on hold our plans to deliver a key part of Birmingham’s West Side area.
“When the economy recovers, we are confident that we will be able to deliver on our vision which will help continue to pull the business district beyond the ring road, into Edgbaston.
“In making this small reduction in working hours, we are simply returning to the core hours the Chamber always used to work and responding to this difficult recession in the way many of our members are doing.
“I am very confident that the service we provide our members and the leadership we provide in the city and region will be completely undisturbed. We expect to complete discussions with our staff no later than the end of April.”
The new headquarters was hailed several years ago as a major element of the rebirth of Edgbaston as a key business area for the city.
Plans for the new headquarters, on the corner of Harborne Road and Highfield Road, comprise three main buildings of three, five and 15 storeys. Landlord Calthorpe Estates had already given the go-ahead for work to start.