£1.57bn arts rescue ‘too late and too slow’
In a damning judgement of the government’s response to rescuing the creative sector from lockdown calamity, the culture, media and support select committee has said the £1.57bn arts rescue fund has come too late and too slow.
“The failure of the government to act quickly has jeopardised the future of institutions that are part of our national life and the livelihoods of those who work for them” said the committee’s chair, Julian Knight (pictured), saying the response should have come sooner and with more clarity about opening. The five point plan for reopening theatres and concert halls was meaningless without a definitive reopening date.
“We can see the damaging effect that has had on the robustness and ability of these areas to recover from the Covid crisis. The £1.57bn support is welcome but for many help has come too late” he said.
The select committee’s report on the situation today says that thousands of redundancies from institutions such as the National Theatre, Theatre Royal Plymouth and the Royal Opera House could have been avoided with swifter action. It calls for an extension to the furlough scheme to halt further redundancies in the sector, and tax relief for performing arts venues. It also wants wider access to the emergency funding which at the moment excludes such activities as circus, amateur theatre, and contemporary music.
The report said redundancies could have been avoided if the government had acted more quickly, and the success of the package depended on early opening of venues and closer social distancing rules. It said the loss of cultural infrastructure could “reverse decades of progress in cultural provision and diversity and inclusion that we cannot afford to lose”.
It calls for urgent action on longer term planning for the recovery of the sector.
The Creative Industries Federation (CIF) welcomed the committee’s report as reinforcing its own evidence, that the measure “has been partial - for example, the exclusion of many of the sector’s self-employed workers - not tailored to the sector, or has, sadly, arrived too late”.
Its CEO Caroline Norbury said: “The £1.57bn rescue package is welcome, but it is now vital that support reaches those who need it most, particularly those creative practitioners who will be unable to return to work until a much later date… The overwhelming crux of this report is the need for long-term systemic change in how our creative industries are supported. We need this change and we need it to begin today”.