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UK biz reacts as furlough scheme extended until 2021

Furloughed Britons will continue to receive up to 80% of their salaries until the end of March 2021 under an extension of coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS).

The extension, announced today (5 November) by the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, comes the day England is locked down for another four weeks to slow the second wave of Covid-19.

The furlough scheme was initially set to run until October, and was previously extended until 2 December.

Also extended today is the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) for freelancers, with a third grant (covering November to January) calculated at 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500.

The move – which comes just two weeks after the At a cliff edge report warned more than 26,000 full-time jobs will be lost before the end of 2020 without an extension to existing support measures – will save thousands of live music jobs.

“I’ve always said I would do whatever it takes to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK, and that has meant adapting our support as the path of the virus has changed,” comments Sunak (pictured). “It’s clear the economic effects are much longer lasting for businesses than the duration of any restrictions, which is why we have decided to go further with our support.

“Extending furlough … will give people and businesses the certainty they need over what will be a difficult winter”

“Extending furlough and increasing our support for the self-employed will protect millions of jobs and give people and businesses the certainty they need over what will be a difficult winter.”

The furlough extension follows other support measures previously announced by the chancellor, including cash grants of up to £3,000 per month for businesses which are closed, £1.1 billion for local authorities, an extension to government-backed loan scheme, and an extension to the mortgage payment holiday for homeowners.

Stuart Galbraith, CEO of Kilimanjaro Live and vice-chair of the Concert Promoters Association, comments: “We are very pleased with the extension of the furlough scheme to the end of March 2020. This will give businesses a very valuable opportunity to keep hold of skilled staff despite not being able to trade under current restrictions.

“While it is also encouraging to see a better deal for the self-employed, we know more needs to be done to support the wide range of freelancers in the music industry and we will continue to push government to make more help available to them.”

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night-Time Industries Association, adds: “While the crisis deepens and we move into a national lockdown for 28 days, we welcome the somewhat belated furlough update until March next year.

“The furlough scheme will absolutely help preserve jobs within the sector, but the challenge still remains: where there is still a considerable void in financial support for night time economy businesses, will there be jobs to go back to?”

“This will give businesses a very valuable opportunity to keep hold of skilled staff despite not being able to trade under current restrictions”

He adds: “We appreciate that safety is paramount, but at some point we’ve got to consider the human element here and the immense pressure that individuals, venues owners, staff and freelancers are under at the moment, given the current financial, economic, cultural and social wellbeing environments that are being presented by government, particularly around our sector.”

Deborah Annetts, of the Incorporate Society of Musicians (ISM), particularly highlights the benefits of extending SEISS to many, though not all, of its members. “We are delighted that the government has extended the coronavirus job retention scheme until the end of March and is increasing support for the self-employed to 80% of trading profits across the November to January period. These measures represent a positive step towards the government fulfilling its commitment to deliver parity between employed and the self-employed,” she comments.

“Today’s announcement is the third change to the SEISS in a short period, following the ISM’s tireless campaigning on this issue. We told the government that their initial approach was insufficient and they have listened, benefitting thousands of musicians who cannot work while performance venues remain closed.

“However, as we have said each time the government changes the level of SEISS, the grant only benefits those able to receive it. An estimated three million self-employed workers continue to be excluded from receiving it at all, so expanding the eligibility criteria remains essential for preventing an exodus of highly skilled talent from our world-leading arts sector.”

 


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Live absent from UK gov’s latest support scheme

The UK’s live music industry has found little comfort in the government’s latest support scheme, revealed today by chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The chancellor announced that the six-month Jobs Support Scheme, which is due to launch on 1 November and replace the furlough scheme, will be expanded to support businesses whose premises are legally required to shut for some period over winter as part of local or national restrictions.

Eligible businesses will receive cash grants up to £3,000 per month depending on rateable value and employees will receive two-thirds of their salary (or 67%), up to a maximum of £2,100 a month, from the government.

Under the scheme, employers will not be required to contribute to wages and will be asked to cover NICS and pension contributions only.

However, the live music industry – the vast majority of which remains shuttered due to restrictions, ranging from the six-month 10 pm curfew, to capacity restrictions with social distancing, to festivals simply not allowed to go ahead – has found no solace in the news

“The new scheme risks overlooking businesses who can technically open their doors but cannot trade economically”

Phil Bowdery, chair of Concert Promoters Association, says: “It seems like the chancellor has overlooked the plight of the tens of thousands of people in the live music industry who are currently unable to work due to Covid-related government restrictions. By focussing his criteria so narrowly on buildings which are allowed to open, the new scheme risks overlooking businesses who can technically open their doors but cannot trade economically due to the restrictions on gatherings in clubs, concert halls and arenas.

“Revenue in the live music industry will be down a catastrophic 80% in 2019 and over 70% of the employees in the industry are currently utilising the furlough scheme. If the government fails to ensure that all sectors that can’t work can access the new scheme, there will be tens of thousands of additional job losses coming before the end of the year.”

Greg Parmley, chair of the UK Live Music Group says: “The UK’s live music business remains one of the most viable industries in the UK, but is still unable to operate. Our entire workforce remains in jeopardy while venues, events and festivals are forced to remain shuttered. The chancellor’s most recent announcement gives no comfort to the skilled and talented workforce who face a desperate and bitter winter.”

“This is in no way reflective of the costs that are being incurred by businesses in our sector”

Michael Kill, CEO at Night Time Industries Association, says he tentatively welcomes the extension but believes the government’s financial support has not gone far enough to safeguard the sector.

“We will need further clarity on the details of the scheme and which businesses are eligible, given thousands of night-time economy businesses have been unable to open or operate for seven months now due to government restrictions. Most businesses and workers in the sector remain in desperation and despair, with no sector-specific or government understanding of the underlying issues the industry is facing or the financial implications of closures.”

“The introduction of the £3,000 monthly grant for businesses under local lockdown is insufficient and, for many, too little too late. This is in no way reflective of the costs that are being incurred by businesses in our sector and will do nothing to alleviate the significant financial burdens they are under.”

“Festivals, concerts and clubs, along with their support crews, cannot survive another winter with no income and no government scheme”

Annabella Coldrick, chief executive of Music Managers Forum says: “The plight of the UK’s live music business has been the focus of two parliamentary debates this week. With furlough ending in a few weeks time, our entire industry has desperately sought reassurance from the government that they understand how critical this situation is becoming, and what our country stands to lose if thousands upon thousands of viable jobs are not sufficiently supported and safeguarded.

“The chancellor has already had to backpedal once this week in a discussion about retraining, and following today’s announcement we need urgent clarification as to whether anyone in our sector will benefit from expansion to the Job Support Scheme. If there is no Plan B, then the impact will be catastrophic on the artists, freelance workers and small businesses on who British music depends.”

“We need urgent clarification as to whether anyone in our sector will benefit from expansion to the Job Support Scheme”

Andy Lenthall, GM of the Production Services Associations, says: “Once again, the technicians and technical suppliers to live events have been ignored. Thousands of individuals and businesses that rely on live events, still unable to work due to government restrictions and suffering catastrophic drops in revenues as a result will receive no support from the chancellor’s recent adjustments in support. All the pain, none of the gain.”

Steve Heap, general secretary of the Association of Festival Organisers says: “The chancellor’s new scheme appears to have failed the viable live music industry that was the first to close down. What is, effectively a furlough scheme extension aimed at businesses that have opened and now have to close again, completely misses out the businesses in the live music industry that have been closed for over six months. Festivals, concerts and clubs, along with their support crews, cannot survive another winter with no income and no government scheme to see them through until next spring.”

Businesses will only be eligible to claim the grant while they are subject to restrictions and employees must be off work for a minimum of seven consecutive days. The scheme will begin on 1 November and will be available for six months, with a review in January.

 


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#WeMakeEvents: UK industry gears up for round two

The UK events industry will hold a second #WeMakeEvents/Red Alert protest tomorrow under the banner Stand As One, in a bid to gain sector-specific support from the government.

Last week, the chancellor announced a new Jobs Support Scheme, designed to support industries that are operating at 30-50% of normal capacity.

However, key figures and organisations pointed out that the events sector is currently operating at 1-5% of normal capacity – rendering the scheme useless to the industry.

The industry is also reckoning with the government’s previous announcement of a new 10 pm curfew, lasting for six months, as part of a slate of new restrictions intended to combat a second wave of Covid-19.

“With the increased restrictions that have been announced, it looks unlikely that we will be able to return to work in a financially viable way within the next six months,” says a spokesperson from #WeMakeEvents, Stand As One.

“This means that the majority of businesses in our sector will not be able to generate sufficient revenue to support their contribution towards employees’ salaries, nor will they be able to contract in the huge self-employed community within the industry.”

According to a new report, the night time economy has already taken a severe blow since the new government curfew was enforced, with over 300 businesses reporting a “catastrophic” drop in trade.

“Feedback from over 300 night time economy businesses on Thursday and Friday night across the country reported a catastrophic drop in trade, showing on average 62% down on previous weeks, believed to be solely due to the implementation of the new restrictions,” says the Night Time Industries Association CEO, Michael Kill.

“It looks unlikely that we will be able to return to work in a financially viable way within the next six months”

“Many business operators reported that customers were unwilling to allow the curfew to limit their evenings, and that many were seeking alternative locations to continue there social experience.

“It is very clear that the systematic closure of businesses at the same time has been counterproductive, culminating in overcrowding on public transport and dispersal routes.

“The sector has been very explicit in its feedback to the government regarding the impact of a 10 pm curfew on the night time economy, but we are yet to see the scientific evidence to substantiate the decision to implement this and we feel the sector has been unfairly targeted.”

The silent, socially distanced protest, Stand As One, will take place tomorrow (29 September) at 12:30 pm in Parliament Square.

It is the second #WeMakeEvents/Red Alert protest to take place in the UK after the initiative launched in August and similar protests have taken place in France, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Spain.

On 30 September, around 20 countries will light buildings red and, where possible, hold socially-distanced demonstrations under the #WeMakeEvents banner for a global day of action.

 


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UK’s new job scheme: Live still faces ‘grim future’

The UK’s live industry has reacted to the government’s new Jobs Support Scheme and Winter Economy Plan, unveiled earlier today by chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The emergency scheme will see the government and firms top up workers’ wages, covering up to two-thirds of their hours for the next six months, after the furlough scheme ends on 31 October. This means employers will have to pay 55% of an employee’s pay and the government will cover 22%.

As part of the Winter Economy Plan, the temporary reduction of VAT rates from 20% to 5% for the hospitality sector will remain in place until 31 March 2021, rather than 13 January.

The announcements have garnered lukewarm reactions from some of the industry’s key figures – many of which have emphasised that the new scheme will only go part way to sustaining the sector.

“We welcome this economy-wide intervention from the chancellor. However, it still leaves many hundreds of thousands of workers in events, arts and cultural parts of the economy with a grim future,” says Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee chair Julian Knight.

“The truth is, three times as many people in these sectors are currently on furlough than the national average, which suggests that the Job Support Scheme may not be able to stop unprecedented redundancies and many organisations from facing extinction.”

“It still leaves many hundreds of thousands of workers in cultural parts of the economy with a grim future”

Earlier today, the chair of the DCMS Committee today made recommendations to Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, calling for immediate and robust action by the government to prevent culture sector from collapse.

Elsewhere, Michael Kill, CEO at Night Time Industries Association, says he’s grateful and relieved that the News Jobs Support Scheme is throwing a “much-needed lifeline to hundreds of thousands of workers in the night-time economy,” but stresses that more support will be needed.

“We are seeking more clarity about what this announcement means for the majority of businesses in the night-time economy who do not know when, or if, they will be able to reopen their doors. These businesses cannot be allowed to collapse as the diversity and creativity of the UK’s night-time economy will die with them.

“We are also very concerned that the extension of business support loans will result in more painful debt for those already overburdened financially, many of whom are languishing in up to three-quarters of commercial rent debt with no certainty on when this will be due.

“More support will be needed. The majority of our sector is still unable to even open and trade. Night-time economy businesses have been unfairly targeted by the new 10 pm curfew, which we believe has no scientific basis and will prevent businesses from rebuilding the necessary revenue to stay afloat. The government must rethink this curfew and consider further sector-specific support for our industry if it wants to save Britain’s most loved cultural institutions.”

“No part of the live music industry is in a position to pay 55% of its employees’ salaries”

Mark Dayvd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, says: “The measures announced today do not address the need for the UK government to support different sectors of our society which are subject to different restrictions because of its own actions to control the virus. This is a very specific challenge to the live music industry, which is not permitted to trade by government restrictions but has not seen any sector support directly offered in this financial intervention.”

“No part of the live music industry is in a position to pay 55% of its employees’ salaries in order to access the government support which is entirely conditional on doing that,” he adds.

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), has also weighed in, saying: “While the extension to the VAT cut is welcome, these measures are not even a band-aid for a sector that remains severely wounded.

“Festivals support 85,000 jobs in the UK and our most recent member surveys suggest redundancies of at least 50.5% across the sector, some of which have unfortunately already taken place.

“With the sector still not generating any income at all this year, many employers will simply not be in a position to pay 55% of their employees’ salaries to access the support offered by the government’s new job support scheme.

“This remains a broad-brush approach, and we urgently need targeted support.

“We are awaiting the outcome of Cultural Recovery Fund applications on 5th October and this will determine if the independent festival sector will in fact receive the support that it urgently requires.”

News of the Jobs Support Scheme follows the government’s previous announcement of a new 10 pm curfew, as part of a slate of new restrictions intended to combat a second wave of Covid-19.

Concert venues and theatres will be allowed to stay open past a new 10 pm curfew, though only if the performance has already started.

 


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UK live industry backs urgent call to action

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee is urging the UK government to take robust and immediate action to save the culture sector from collapse.

The committee is calling on DCMS to implement a number of recommendations that would enable venues and stadiums to plan for a full return to live when it is safe to do so.

Key organisations from the UK’s live music industry such as the Concert Promoters Association (CPA), Music Venue Trust (MVT) and the National Arenas Association (NAA) have supported the call-to-action.

“We welcome the DCMS select committee again calling on the government for a conditional date for reopening, greater clarity of guidance and further funding for our industry,” says Phil Bowdery, chair of the CPA.

“Today Rishi Sunak must provide the support that the UK’s Live Music industry desperately needs. We support over 210,000 jobs and previous promises of support are yet to materialise. Without real funding for our employees, freelancers and supporting businesses our industry simply won’t survive.”

“Today Rishi Sunak must provide the support that the UK’s Live Music industry desperately needs”

Lucy Noble, chairperson of NAA says: “80% of our staff across our 23 arenas have been furloughed and as the scheme is coming to an end we are being forced into some decisions that we never wanted to make. While we cannot operate at full capacity, most of our shows cannot go ahead and an extension of support for our staff would be enormously welcomed.”

Mark Davyd from MVT says: “This is a vital report from the DCMS select committee that comes at a crunch point for the UK’s grassroots artists, staff and venues. We strongly urge the government to act in its recommendations”

The committee has warned that a sector which contributed £32.3 billion to the UK economy in 2018, is facing mass redundancies without an extension to the job retention scheme for the arts and leisure sectors.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will unveil a plan aimed at minimising further unemployment later today. The new measures are expected to replace the furlough scheme, which is set to expire next month.

Earlier this week, the UK government announced a new 10 pm curfew as part of a slate of new restrictions intended to combat a second wave of Covid-19.

Concert venues and theatres will be allowed to stay open past a new 10 pm curfew, though only if the performance has already started.

 


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Germany won’t Return to Live, says government

Germany’s federal and state governments have dashed hopes of the country returning to live any time soon after announcing that major events which do not adhere to hygiene regulations will be banned at least until the end of this year.

Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, previously announced in June that major events in the country would be banned until the start of November unless organisers can prove that social distancing measures and hygiene protocol can be met.

The extension of the ban is part of a series of measures to help contain the spread of the virus in Germany, which include a minimum fine of €50 for those caught without a mask.

Chancellor Angela Merkel says: “We want to keep our health system strong in the pandemic, because this benefits everyone, but also the economy and public life.”

Earlier this week, the Live Nation GSA-promoted concert Return to Live – slated to be the biggest show in the country since March – was postponed indefinitely due to increasing infections.

“We want to keep our health system strong in the pandemic, because this benefits everyone, but also the economy and public”

The concert was due to take place on 4 September, inviting up to 12,000 to watch artists including Bryan Adams, Sarah Connor and Rea Garvey at the all-seated Merkur Spiel Arena in Dusseldorf.

Music industry conference and showcase festival Reeperbahn is among those still slated to take place in Germany between August and November, set for 16 to 19 September in Hamburg.

According to Hamburg government spokesperson Enno Isermann Reeperbahn “should take place under the applicable corona regulations”

While Germany may not be able to return to live yet, preparations for next year look promising. Just a few days ago the German federal government committed €80 million to organisers of music concerts and festivals from its €1bn Restart Culture programme.

The 12-month Neustart Kultur (‘Restart Culture’) stimulus package includes a total of €150m earmarked for music, with this initial €80m dedicated to events from October 2020 to the end of August 2021.

This news followed reports that Germany is likely to extend its coronavirus furlough scheme to 24 months – a proposal that has the backing of the chancellor, Angela Merkel.

 


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Harvey Goldsmith: ‘Crew are the engine of our business’

Legendary promoter Harvey Goldsmith CBE was among the UK’s leading live industry figures who attended the #WeMakeEvents campaign in London last night (11 August).

The UK-wide initiative, organised by the Professional Lighting & Sound Association (Plasa), was launched in a bid to draw attention to the struggling freelancers who work across the live events and entertainment sector.

Shows of support took place in towns and cities such as Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds and Bristol and Manchester, where hundreds of out-of-work crew workers took part in a silent march past the city’s closed venues.

London’s display saw thousands of professionals from the sector dress in red and line the banks of the River Thames and the surrounding bridges near Royal Festival Hall, the National Theatre and the Tate. The venues were lit in red to signal a “red alert”.

The finale saw a red-hued boat, carrying some of each industry’s most renowned figures including Goldsmith as well as singer-songwriter Frank Turner and Level 42 bassist Mark King, speed past the venues while the professionals and volunteers symbolised the “throw us a line” theme.

These people here are the engine of our business. Without them, we don’t have a business,” Goldsmith told IQ

“Making events is their livelihood so I’m all for events like this and I’m 100% behind what they’re doing. What they’ve done tonight with #WeMakeEvents is fantastic,” he concluded.

“None of us is worried about the future, we just all want to make sure we can get there”

Audiotonix CEO James Gordon delivered a keynote speech on the boat, relaying the top three objectives of the #WeMakeEvents campaign. The demands include a sector-specific furlough scheme, an extension to the self-employed and income support scheme for freelancers, and grants instead of loans for businesses in the supply chain that have been out of work.

“None of us is worried about the future, we just all want to make sure we can get there and return to being one of the fastest-growing sectors consistently in the UK,” Gordon said.

The UK’s live music sector, in particular, is currently pushing the government for a provisional date to reopen, a multi-year extension of the cultural VAT rate reduction beyond January in line with DCMS’s recent recommendations, and a government-backed reinsurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead.

UK venues were preparing to reopen from 1 August but the government pushed back the next step of lockdown easing by at least two weeks. Goldsmith says he hopes live shows will return without social distancing in the winter but the industry needs the green light first.

“We want a target date. We need four months to get ourselves together, in order to get back,” he tells IQ.

We need to test out different systems for before people arrive at gigs. Social distancing doesn’t work. We want to do a test gig where we can use all of the available safety opportunities to prove that we could do it, like testing and tracking. And then once people are inside they’re inside. I’m working with some venues and we have everything lined up and ready to do a test show in November. We just need a target date.”

#WeMakeEvents follows on from the UK’s initial campaign, Let the Music Play, which highlighted the urgent need for government support to sustain the live industry’s broader ecosystem.

The initiative put forth a social media campaign and a letter laying out the necessary support measures, signed by artists and industry professionals, which was delivered to UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden.

Mere days after the campaign, the British government unveiled a £1.57bn package of grants and loans for music and arts organisations, the details of which were later revealed.

 


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