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UK live industry cautiously welcomes 2021 budget

The UK’s live music industry has welcomed many of the provisions contained in the 2021 government budget, presented this afternoon by chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak, but expressed its disappointment at the continued lack of a European-style insurance scheme for festival organisers.

Among the measures unveiled by Sunak in the Commons today (3 March) are an extra £300 million for the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF), ‘restart grants’ for hospitality/leisure businesses, the extension of the coronavirus job retention scheme (furlough) and self-employed income support (SEISS) schemes, and business rate relief.

The budget also confirmed an extension of the 5% rate of VAT on ticket sales – a key campaign focus for pan-industry group LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) and the whole UK concert industry – for a further six months, with an interim rate of 12.5% until April 2022.

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals, says: “We warmly welcome the extension to the reduced VAT rate on tickets, which will really help festivals during the 2021 sales cycle. For many AIF members, this is the first period in which they are selling tickets since the outset of the pandemic. We do, however, reiterate the recommendation of the DCMS select committee for VAT on ticket sales to remain at a reduced rate for three years so that the UK festival sector can fully recover.

“The Culture Recovery Fund has been a lifeline for many of our members so it’s greatly encouraging to see a further £300m invested into this, though we would appreciate some further detail on this additional round and the time period it will cover.

“Independent festival organisers would much rather mobilise their staff to plan a full and successful festival season this summer”

“We also welcome the extension to the government’s furlough scheme and continued support for the self-employed. However, independent festival organisers would much rather mobilise their staff to plan a full and successful festival season this summer. As we have repeatedly stressed, the only way they can do this is with a government-backed insurance scheme that covers Covid-19-related cancellation. The chancellor today confirmed the extension of the government backed restart scheme for film and TV productions – a similar safety net needs to be put in place before the end of March to avoid mass cancellations throughout the UK’s festival market.”

Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association, comments: “For the live music industry, today’s budget, and specifically the extension of furlough to September, is enormously welcome. The whole sector has been grateful for a 21 June ‘not before’ date for operating at full capacity, and the extension of the 5% VAT rate on tickets is something we had been hoping to see.

“Uncertainty remains, and the lack of insurance for Covid-related cancellation is a huge concern – what the entire live sector wants is to be allowed to trade safely out of this situation and once more welcome people to come together for extraordinary shared experiences.”

“Music Venue Trust welcomes the extensions to furlough, SEISS and the VAT cut on ticket sales,” says MVT CEO Mark Davyd. These measures are supportive of the next steps in the campaign to reopen every venue safely. On business rates, we note that the Chancellor has provided a 100% cut for the initial three-month period in which venues will not be trading. This period does not resolve the long running debate on business rates, and we look forward to a full discussion of this outdated and anachronistic taxation in the business rates review in Autumn 2021.

“The chancellor announced additional funding to be distributed by Arts Council England [ACE], but the purpose of this funding is unclear; we hope to work with ACE and DCMS to ensure it is effectively distributed, and includes sensible and structured capital investment that enables our music venues to become more Covid-secure.”

“The needs of those in mixed employment, and those individuals operating as limited companies, were not met”

Annabella Coldrick, chief executive of Music Managers Forum, says: “The MMF welcomes the extension of eligibility for support to the self-employed. This is a really important measure that should have an impact on our community and their clients, many of whom faced real hardship during the pandemic, although unfortunately directors of limited companies are still excluded. We also welcome the £300m Cultural Recovery Fund for reopening, although it was disappointing not to hear any developments on government-backed insurance for live music events which is urgently needed to get us back up and running in July.

For a full longer-term music recovery, to a place where artists can perform to full capacity crowds and tour internationally, we will need this kind of targeted and continued support reaching into 2022.”

“We welcome the continuation of support for employers and self-employed workers, as well as the addition of those newly self employed sole traders; this is tempered by the disappointment that the needs of those in mixed employment and those individuals operating as limited companies were not met,” adds Dave Keighley, chair of the Production Services Association.

“Support for companies is also broadly welcomed, although doubt over whether business rate relief applies to our members that support hospitality and leisure remains. Any discounts given to venues should be clearly extended to those companies that work in those venues, recognising that live events are an ecosystem that needs complete support. Although the extension of the 5% VAT rate helps, it needs to be extended to assist our sector’s recovery.

“The extension to the Culture Recovery Fund is encouraging, we hope that the current and subsequent rounds will support event more of our member companies that support cultural activity.”

 


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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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