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6th March, 2021

Chancellor Sunak extends support for arts and culture - but did he go far enough?

With sponsorship funding harder to find than ever in these desperate times, all eyes and ears in the arts sector were on Chancellor Rishi Sunak, as he delivered his much-anticipated Budget speech on Wednesday.

His announcement on the arts came in the wake of previous special measures brought in last year. Arts and cultural organisations have benefited indirectly from more widely-targeted initiatives, such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), which had been extended to 31st March, and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

In Wednesday's Budget, these were replaced by the new Recovery Loan Scheme. This ensures businesses of any size can continue to access loans and other kinds of finance up to 10 million per business, once the existing COVID-19 loan schemes close, providing support as businesses recover and grow following the disruption of the pandemic and the end of the transition period. Other non-arts-specific assistance was provided via grants available under the extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

Targeted support was announced in the shape of the Culture Recovery Fund, which was first unveiled on 5th July. Funding is delivered via Arts Council England, the BFI, Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Extension of the reduced VAT rate on ticket sales of 5% and furlough were broadly welcomed. A 150m fund to assist local communities to take over theatres, pubs and sports clube was also announced.

Julian Bird, Chief Executive of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre, commented: "The announcement of a further 300m for the Culture Recovery Fund, coupled with announcements on furlough, self-employed support, business rates and VAT remaining at a lower rate for hospitality and leisure businesses, is all hugely welcome and will help ensure our industry can reopen with additional financial security".

But he underlined what he saw as the urgent need for further action by the government: "The extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to cover new entrants in the 2019/20 tax year will help many in our sector, but we urge the Government to continue to look at the plight of other individuals who have fallen through the gaps of furlough and self-employed support. In order to reopen, theatre and the performing arts continue to need insurance cover, and we call upon the Government to put this in place as for other sectors".

In a statement, Caroline Norbury MBE, CEO of the Creative Industries Federation, said: "We welcome the emergency measures announced in today's Budget, including the extension of support schemes to September, the inclusion of the 'newly' self-employed and the 408 million injection into arts and culture, which we and others have been calling for. These measures will provide relief to many in the UK's creative industries, a sector that has been amongst the worst hit by the pandemic and that will be one of the latest to return to work. Greater flexibilities in the apprenticeship scheme are very welcome, as we seek to spread opportunity within the creative industries more widely, as is the six-month extension of the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme.

"As we look to the future, we know that the creative industries can power us out of recession, driving economic growth, creating jobs and making our communities happier, healthier places for everyone. It is therefore welcome to see creative industries highlighted as a priority in both government's Plan for Growth and the Levelling Up Fund, recognising that our 116bn sector is a major industry that will unlock innovation and drive the future of the UK in the months and years to come. We know that attracting inward investment will be key to this. We have been calling for the expansion of Creative Industries tax reliefs and while we welcome that government is consulting on R&D tax reliefs, we keenly await the eligibility criteria for the super-deduction. It is vital that investment in our world-leading creative content is incentivised.

"It is important that as we recover, we do so in a way that does not leave people behind. Our recent survey of over 800 creative organisations and practitioners showed that freelancers, those outside of London and those reliant on audiences have been hit hardest. As venues plan for a summer reopening, it is disappointing that proposals to introduce government-backed insurance for live events have not been adopted, as this would provide the degree of certainty that is so desperately needed. There are also still thousands of people in our sector who are falling through the gaps. More than just support, we need urgent structural change to ensure freelancers a vital part of our future workforce have every opportunity to thrive".

The Museums Association said the the Budget brought "much needed relief" but added that greater clarity was needed regarding the museum sector's eligibility for the new hospitality and leisure Restart Grants of up to 18,000 each, which they emphasised would be a further boost particularly for small and independent museums. They also pointed to the lack of news on any extension to the Museums and Galleries Exhibitions Tax Relief.



Picture credit: Rishi Sunak - Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons




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