Festivals and nightlife organisations have expressed their disappointment after UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak today (Wednesday) announced a series of measures in the 2021 Budget that “fail to recognise” their needs.
While the raft of new measures to support the arts have been welcomed by industry groups, there has been a renewed call for a Government-backed insurance scheme that covers Covid-19 related cancellation, as well as targeted support for the nightlife sector.
The new measures include an extension on the VAT reduction on ticket sales, a £300m top-up to the Culture Recovery Fund and extensions to both the current furlough scheme and support for the self-employed.
The five per cent reduced rate of VAT on ticket sales would be extended for six months to September 30, which will be followed by an interim rate of 12.5 per cent for a further six months.
However, UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said the music industry urgently needed a Government-backed insurance scheme to allow festival and concert organisers to proceed without the risk of the further Covid-enforced cancellations.
According to the umbrella group for music across the UK, nine out of ten festival organisers said they could not proceed with their events without a viable insurance scheme, with Glastonbury and Download among the major festivals to have already pulled the plug on this summer.
Njoku-Goodwin also called for the Culture Recovery Fund to be extended to include freelancers, as is the case in Scotland and Wales.
He said: “The expanded support for freelancers and the self-employed is a step in the right direction in an industry where three-quarters of the 200,000 workforce are self -employed. However, there are still many in our industry who fall in the gaps of the financial support schemes and need help.
“However, the clock is ticking when it comes to staging live music events this summer. Organisers are making decisions in the next few days and weeks about whether they can proceed or will be forced to cancel.
“The live music industry urgently needs a Government-backed insurance scheme to protect against the risk of losses if a festival or concert is forced to cancel due to Covid.”
Similarly, the chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, Michael Kill, said he was “disappointed” that the Chancellor did not introduce an insurance scheme for events this summer.
He said: “We welcome the extension of VAT and rates relief, and that more money is going to hospitality and the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF). But both of these interventions again reveal the Chancellor’s inability to comprehend the specific challenges faced by night time economy businesses, such as nightclubs, casinos and bars, many of which have been entirely unable to open during the pandemic and face higher costs relative to wider hospitality.
“With no meaningful expansion to CRF eligibility, and no bespoke support for our sector, we are once again left with a package totally incommensurate with businesses’ costs – including spiralling commercial rent arrears. The loan solutions outlined by the Chancellor just aren’t good enough for businesses that are already overburdened with debt.”
The music industry is working to three dates from the Government, with pilot events to kick off on April 12. Indoor and outdoor events, with capacity limits and social distancing, could begin from May 17 and large gigs and concerts with no social distancing to potentially begin from June 21.
For the theatre industry, the extension to cuts on business rates and VAT would benefit its venues and organisations. However, Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre urges the Government to continue to look at the “plight of other individuals who have fallen through the gaps of furlough and self-employed support.”
He said: “In order to reopen, theatre and the performing arts continue to need insurance cover, and we call upon the Government to put this in place as for other sectors.”