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Mixed feelings over Budget from live entertainment sector

The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the key points of his Budget for 2022 in the House of Commons yesterday (Wednesday). 

There has been a mixed response from the live entertainment and music sector over the related points made in the Budget and Spending Review, with some urging the Government to do more. 

A key point from the Budget for the live entertainment sector included increasing the Theatre Tax Relief to 45% and 50% (for touring productions). This relief will then reduce to 30% and 35% from April 1, 2023 and then decrease further to 20% and 25% from April 1, 2024. 

A statement from Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre said: “The Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre welcome the support that Rishi Sunak and HM Treasury have shown the theatre sector in the Autumn 2021 Budget.”

Bird believes that the tax relief will “provide producers and investors with greater confidence in developing our world-leading theatre and drive the cultural recovery from the pandemic”. 

He added: “The temporary business rates relief for theatre buildings in 2022-23, a 50% relief up to a £110,000 cap per business, will provide venue operators with the cushion of a lower cost base as they reopen and develop an audience post-pandemic.

“The 100% improvement relief for business rates, providing 12 months relief from higher bills for occupiers where eligible improvements to an existing property increase the rateable value, from 2023 will encourage innovation and enhancement of our theatre buildings.” 

UK Music’s chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin welcomed measures to maintain rate relief for hospitality and leisure business as well as enhancing the orchestra tax relief, but he called on the Government to back other measures such as securing the talent pipeline. Njoku-Goodwin is calling for funds to enable freelancers to recover, create opportunities through music education and enable investment in the next generation of British musicians. 

The CEO further called for support to protect live events from more pandemic disruptions through the extension of the Culture Recovery Fund. Njoku-Goodwin also suggested encouraging exports abroad and investing in export schemes.

Njoku-Goodwin said: “The Chancellor has taken some welcome steps in his Budget, yet further action is needed to support the music sector’s post-pandemic recovery. These next few months are an absolutely critical time for the UK music industry. Following the easing of restrictions, businesses are getting back on their feet and fans are able to enjoy live music again. 

“We must not allow that recovery to be derailed as we rebuild our sector post-COVID. It is crucial that we get Government support to help us continue to rebuild and hire people who went so long without work due to the pandemic. 

“COVID halved music’s economic contribution to the UK economy from almost £6bn ($8.28bn/€7bn) a year to £3.1bn in 2020. If the Government strikes the right note by delivering the support we need, our music industry will come back stronger and bigger than ever.”

He added: “We are pleased to see the extension of the orchestra’s tax relief yet the Government has missed an opportunity to not take forward further music tax incentives to help boost jobs and economic growth. Similarly, business rate relief for venues is very welcome yet we remain concerned about next April’s VAT hike for live events.” 

CEO of LIVE Greg Parmley also welcomed some of the changes from the Budget, but would also like to see more support for music and live events going forward. 

Parmley said: “We’re glad to see that live music will receive some benefit from today’s Spending Review – including tax relief, business rates, and some extension in terms of funding. 

“However, with the word ‘music’ completely absent from today’s announcement, we remain steadfast in our drive to see the Government pay attention to the key issues we are facing: the impacts of Brexit, the recovery from COVID and the long-term growth of the sector.”

He added: “We need the Government to give us the tools to make progress, which were unfortunately missing from today’s news.”

Image: Pien Muller on Unsplash/ Kilyan Sockalingum on Unsplash