Arts & Culture

Industry reacts to UK Chancellor’s autumn budget

Bodies from across the live entertainment, theatre and night time industries have called the UK Chancellor’s autumn budget a 'missed opportunity'. 

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled the autumn budget yesterday (Thursday) and despite calls for an extension to Theatre Tax Relief and a cut to VAT on ticket sales for circus, entertainment and performing arts companies, help for those in the live music sector and support for the night time economy, there were no direct references to these sectors in the latest budget. 

The UK Government did, however, reveal that the retail, hospitality and leisure relief on business rates, which includes theatres and grassroots music venues, will be extended from 50% to 75% from April 1 next year. 

Head of union BECTU Philippa Childs told The Stage: “There is very little in this budget to calm the perfect storm facing the UK’s theatre sector. Its workers and businesses were among the hardest hit by the pandemic and continue to face challenges in getting audiences to return.

“They are now battling soaring running and living costs with low wages, unpredictable employment and reduced audience footfall. That’s in addition to the continuing post-Brexit touring restrictions.”

Childs added: “It would seem this budget is a missed opportunity to help boost the UK’s creative sector.”

Jon Collins, chief executive of umbrella organisation for the live music industry LIVE, also called for the reintroduction of a lower VAT rate on ticket sales, and said: “While we welcome the Government’s desire to bring stability to the UK economy, today has offered little help to secure the future of our £4.5bn ($5.3bn/€5.1bn) industry and the 200,000 people it employs. 

“Unprecedented operating conditions are pushing our sector to the brink, as much-loved venues close their doors, tours are cancelled and artists drop out of the industry.The pandemic hangover combined with the increased cost-of-living has led to 54% of people stating they are less disposed to attending live entertainment, putting incredible pressure on the live music sector. 

“Today, we renew our call for a reintroduction of a lower VAT rate on ticket sales to inject cash into the bottom line of struggling businesses, bring us in line with many other European countries, and secure the future of live music for all.”

Music Venue Trust has welcomed the autumn budget’s increase of the relief on business rates, but has asked for clarity. 

In a statement, the charity said: “Music Venue Trust welcomes the Government’s announcement that the retail, hospitality and leisure relief on business rates, which includes the majority of UK grassroots music venues, will be extended from 50% to 75% from April 1 2023.

“However, we have written to the Treasury to ask that they clarify the support being offered to venues with values in excess of £110,000 – the Autumn Statement lacks clarity on what is proposed for such venues.”

Music Venue Trust also highlighted the conversation around VAT on ticketing and added: “The Government has not chosen to respond to calls to reduce VAT on ticketing. The UK continues to have the highest rate of VAT in Europe on live music tickets. This must change so the UK can compete.”

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) CEO Michael Kill said: “This Government is guilty of neglecting thousands of businesses and millions of employees and freelancers across the night time economy, this budget has not gone far enough and still lacks clarity, and will, without doubt, see a huge swathe of SMEs and independent businesses disappear in the coming months.

“When businesses should be preparing for the busiest period of the year, they are now having to consider their future, and will remember the fourth failed attempt to deliver a budget to safeguard businesses at the sharpest end of the crisis.

“There is no consideration for the human impact, this will have a devastating effect on not only business owners, but the individuals and families who have committed their lives and livelihoods to this sector.”