The British curry industry has called on the Government to boost the restaurant sector by reducing VAT on the sector by 5%.
It said that reducing VAT would boost the number of diners and head off a contraction in the curry restaurant industry, which contributes some £3.5b to the economy and employs 100,000 people.
The call was made at the annual British Curry Awards, which this year were attended by London Mayor Boris Johnson, employment minister Chris Grayling and Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi.
Event organiser Enam Ali said: "Along with virtually all other sectors in the hospitality industry, we are feeling the squeeze of the spending downturn. If we are not to see our industry contract seriously for the first time, we need some Government help to stimulate spending.
"A 5% cut in VAT for the hospitality sector would help to boost the numbers of people dining out, promote growth, create more jobs and, in turn, bring more money flowing into the exchequer."
He also welcomed the Government's plans for "curry colleges", but suggested that specialist courses at existing catering collages and universities run in conjunction with local restaurants would better address the shortage of skilled chefs in the wake of the migration cap.
"Once equipped with the necessary basic skills, students could spend part of their week in college and part learning on the job in a restaurant. This to us seems a far more practical and potentially less costly solution that would allow those wanting to make a career in the industry to study closer to home rather than having to move away to a centralised location," Ali added.
The winners on the night were:
Shelim Hussain MBE, Eurofoods (Personality of the Year)
Keka Ferdosi (Special Recognition)
Khalid Sami Khan, Lasan restaurant, Birmingham (Culinary Chef of the Year)
Taj Tandoori, Prestwick (Best in Scotland)
Vujon, Newcastle (Best in North East)
Dower House, Doncaster (Best in North West)
Rilys, Redditch (Best in Midlands)
Bokhara Brasserie, Bridgend (Best in Wales)
Haweli, Twyford (Best in South East)
Spice Lodge, Cheltenham (Best in South West)
Tamarind, Mayfair (Best in Central London)
Shampan 3, Welling (Best in London Suburbs)
Cinnamon Kitchen & Anise, London EC2 (Best Newcomer)
By James Stagg
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