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Industry responses to the UK government’s latest COVID support measures

By | Published on Friday 25 September 2020

Live music

Tom Kiehl, Acting CEO of UK Music: “We welcome the extension of government support to safeguard jobs beyond the end of the existing furlough scheme. It is good to see the extension of the 15% VAT cut and the breathing space given to businesses facing VAT bills through the new payment scheme. However, there appears to be little to give comfort to the many talented people in the music industry who are key to our entrepreneurial future. We need special arrangements and sector-specific support for the music industry where 72% of the workforce are self-employed until our industry can get back on its feet”.

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association Of Independent Festivals: “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 Culture Recovery Fund applications and this will determine if the independent festival sector will in fact receive the support that it urgently requires”.

Michael Kill CEO of the Night Time Industries Association: “Shock, horror and despair have reverberated across swathes of the night time industry as more details of the Chancellor’s Winter Economy Plan have been revealed”.

“It is now clear that there is no support for businesses in the sector which are still forced to remain closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Even the businesses that can reopen in the industry are unable to see the benefit of the scheme as the recent 10pm curfew makes operating barely viable. The government has chosen to support only businesses able to operate viably and is completely ignoring those who have been unable to trade since March whilst leveraging crippling restrictions on the businesses that can open”.

“The night time economy has been totally disregarded by government policy. The government narrative has delivered empty promises and left us an industry in exile. Debt terms have been driven further down the road for a sector that is already overburdened financially, with many of our members languishing in up to three quarters of commercial rent arrears with no certainty on whether they can pay this”.

“It is simply not good enough to allow much loved entertainment, cultural and social institutions in an industry that, pre-COVID, employed over 1.3 million and contributed £66 billion per year to the UK economy to disappear with all the corporate and personal pain that causes. At some point these businesses will have to draw a line and will be forced to make a decision on the future of their businesses and their workforce”.

Mark Dayvd, CEO of Music Venue Trust: “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”.

“The new Job Support Scheme is built around the premise of returning to work, and employers returning to some level of income arising from that work to support those workers. The government has made it clear that it does not believe that the time is right for the live music industry to return to work, and where limited events, under substantial restrictions, are permitted, the income generated is insufficient to meet any of the government targets for employer contributions. Bluntly, 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”.

“HM Government has made much of the financial support on offer to the live music industry through the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. Of this total intervention into culture, £500 million is potentially available to the live music industry through a process of competitive grant applications. However, competition for those grants will be fierce, and the qualifying criteria extends to the whole of the cultural sector. In the absence of measures in this financial statement to tackle the urgent crisis in the live music industry with sector-specific financial interventions that address the specific circumstances that government measures have placed on the industry, all eyes therefore turn to the distribution of that Culture Recovery Fund”.

“The distribution of the Culture Recovery Fund will need to demonstrate that the government has created a specific sector financial support package for a specific sector which its own virus management policy dictates is unable to trade. If the fund is distributed in such a way that it enables the live music industry to access the financial support being offered across the business sector, such as the employees protection programme, then today’s measures contribute to the music industry’s recovery. HM Government clearly believes, and expressed during today’s [Digital, Culture, Media & Sport] questions in Parliament, that it will. If it does not, none of today’s measures are accessible to the live music industry and none will have any impact”.

Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the Music Managers Forum: “Unfortunately, the Chancellor’s statement has only heightened the industry’s state of distress, and especially across our live sector where hundreds of thousands of jobs remain in peril. Concerts and festivals are a cornerstone of UK culture, as well as an important engine of our economy. They are viable businesses, dealing with terrible and unforeseen circumstances. Without targeted support, the infrastructure and livelihoods that support live events will be irreparably damaged, along with the careers of artists and musicians. The MMF’s membership is reliant on live music for 80% of their income, and through our ReBuild fund we are doing what we can to support music managers in need, but to prevent a full-on industry-wide catastrophe the government will have to step in”.

Deborah Annetts, CEO of the Incorporated Society Of Musicians: “While we welcome much of today’s announcement from the Chancellor which will help our venues, many of which are on a cliff edge, it is a devastating blow for the thousands of self-employed musicians who have had no income since March and still cannot return to work while venues remain closed. The UK music industry is a hotbed of world-leading talent which makes a huge contribution to our economy and global influence, so it is vital that freelancers are not forgotten and measures are put in place to help them until they can work again”.

“Many musicians have already fallen through the gaps in the Self Employment Income Support Scheme and will continue to be excluded under the new measures. In addition, reducing support down to just 20% of average monthly trading profits will not provide an adequate safety net for our members when they are unable to generate any income at all”.

“The government must deliver on its pledge to ensure there is parity between employees and the self-employed by maintaining the existing level of support provided by the SEISS and expanding the eligibility criteria. These are dynamic entrepreneurs who will be back on their feet as soon as the sector can reopen, so any support measures need only last until the necessary safety precautions are eased”.

Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union: “Whilst today’s announcement is, of course, welcome for many workers, there are a huge number of outstanding questions to be answered. Our surveys have shown that 38% of musicians were never able to benefit from either of the previous job support schemes, so we urge the Chancellor to ensure that these workers are not also excluded from the plans announced today. We also need to see more detail of how the replacement of the furlough scheme and the extension of SEISS will work in practice”.

“The live music industry has been put on almost complete hold due to the coronavirus crisis, and 70% of our members are currently unable to work more than a quarter of their usual hours. If the bar for qualifying for these schemes is set at 33% of normal hours this will be a huge problem for musicians. These jobs are entirely viable jobs, they have just been completely paused during this crisis and the government must act to protect musicians. The extension of SEISS, whilst welcome, is set to only cover 20% of average monthly trading profits. Is the government seriously expecting many musicians to survive on 20% of their usual income for the next six months?”

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