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Drive to fill 2,200 leisure and hospitality jobs in the heart of London gets underway

Published: 21 March 2022

Westminster City Council has appointed a consortium of leading Business Improvement Districts to lead its £1m drive to fill thousands of jobs in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

New West End Company and the Knightsbridge Partnership, which represent around 900 businesses in London’s two international centres, will ensure that the programme is focussed on providing direct support to hospitality and leisure businesses struggling to recruit staff as they recover from the pandemic.

The consortium has partnered with recruitment specialist Step Ahead and high street vitality agency AttisTowns to deliver an innovative service which aims to recruit at least 2,200 employees in these sectors over the next two years.

Thousands of jobs around the West End and Westminster remain unfilled more than month after the end of all Covid-19 restrictions in England and Wales.

Nationally there are 178,000 vacancies in the accommodation and food industries - the highest number since statistics started being recorded in 2001.

Across the UK the ratio of hospitality jobs to vacancies has reached an all-time high of one vacancy for every eight jobs, the situation is thought to be worse in central London.

Announcing the appointment Cllr Matthew Green, Westminster City Council’s Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning, said the importance of the West End could not be overstated:

Westminster has within it some of the most famous shopping streets in the world which are huge draws for visitors.

Tourists come from all over the globe for the shopping, nightlife, theatre and restaurants to be found in them.

Unfortunately, a great many people left these sectors during the pandemic, and as we prepare for the return of large-scale tourism they will need to be filled.

The West End is an exciting and vibrant place to start your career and Westminster’s businesses are ready to support new staff members as they climb the ladder of the hospitality industry

Working together with AttisTowns we’ll support those who want to discover new opportunities in our bars, hotels and restaurants, while helping the sector deliver on its full potential.

The scheme, which will connect hospitality players with local jobseekers, colleges, and training centres, has been widely praised by tourism chiefs which represent over 850 hospitality, leisure, retail, entertainment, commercial and property businesses in Westminster.

It will also carry out research looking at the barriers to taking up these roles and working with businesses to support them to make the necessary adjustments so that a career in hospitality and tourism can be a sustainable and progressive one for more people.

Chief Executive of UKHospitality Kate Nicholls said:

UKHospitality has been working at pace to turbo charge the sector’s training with new ways of working and driving up employment standards.

But pubs, restaurants and hotels were finding it difficult to hire staff before COVID-19 and the pandemic has made things even worse.

If businesses are going to make a strong recovery we need to find innovative ways of encouraging people to take-up a career in hospitality.

This fresh approach to hospitality and leisure recruitment provides a great opportunity to test new ideas and ensure that businesses in Westminster can recruit the staff they need, particularly as international travel starts to return.”

Steve Medway, Knightsbridge Partnership Chief Executive, said:

This is a ground-breaking initiative by Westminster City Council to support local businesses.

It's the first time that Business Improvement Districts have been awarded a contract to deliver business focussed services.

We are confident that this will show that, by working in partnership, the City Council and BIDs can introduce new levels of innovation and expertise to help Westminster's businesses to recover and thrive.

Paul Jackson, Claridge’s General Manager who is Chair of the New West End Company's Hotel Steering Group said:

Hotels and restaurants are a vital part of Westminster's economy, attracting visitors from around the world and supporting thousands of jobs.

But current recruitment difficulties are preventing many businesses from reaching their full potential as we recover from the impact of COVID-19.

That's why we welcome this innovative approach from Westminster City Council and local Business Improvement Districts, working together to solve this problem and help build a stronger recovery.

Paul Barnes, Director of AttisTowns, added:

Bars, pubs, restaurants and hotels create vibrant town and city centres.

This shortage of staff is holding back their recovery, and that hurts us all.

Westminster City Council's initiative has allowed us to explore new, groundbreaking ways of encouraging people to take up careers in hospitality and leisure.

Jackie Bedford, CEO of Step Ahead, said:

With our extensive experience in Hospitality and Leisure recruitment, and having enjoyed working with Westminster City Council in the past, we are delighted to take part in this innovative partnership programme to help Westminster businesses to secure and retain the right staff and continue to be sector leaders.

Businesses who are interested in the projected are being asked to express their interest by signing up on the Westminster Hospitality and Leisure Recruitment website.