Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak presented the Governments budget today, laying out a series of new crucial policies to help individuals and businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Julian Bird, CEO of SOLT and UK Theatre said:
“The 2021 budget contains the extension of many vital support mechanisms that have helped the performing arts industry through the pandemic, and it is wonderful that the Government recognises the value of our world-leading culture sector. 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.
“The extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to cover new entrants in the 19/20 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.”
Continued employment support
The furlough scheme will be extended by 5 months. Due to end at the end of April, it will now run until the end of September. Similar to last summer, employees will still receive 80% of wages, but employer contributions will increase over the summer.
Another SEISS grant will be available from April, and a fifth will be available later in the year, although the 5th grant will be based on a reduction in turnover to determine the rate paid.
The rules have also been changed so that around 600,000 more people who have been unable to claim will be eligible for support. Previously, people who became self-employed in 2019-20 tax year weren’t able to receive the grants.
The government will introduce a £7 million fund from July 2021 to help employers in England set up and expand portable apprenticeships. This will allow apprentices to work across multiple projects with different employers – giving apprentices high quality and long-term training and allowing employers access to a more diverse range of apprentices. Creative Industries Council in particular will be asked to bring forward proposals for this new scheme in recognition of the benefits of this new approach for the creative sector.
Increased funding for the cultural sector
The arts sector will receive a new package of funding for recovery. This will include around £300m for the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund and £90m earmarked for the national museums.
The Production Restart scheme for Film and Television has been extended until December 2021, but disappointingly there is no equivalent scheme for Theatre productions.
The Help To Grow Scheme will offer management programmes to upskill 30,000 SMEs over the next year, boosting growth in smaller businesses. This comes alongside a new digital programme, providing vouchers to help smaller businesses invest in the software needed to grow.
Boosts to local culture
Also announced was a £150 million Community Ownership Fund, that will allow communities across the UK to invest to protect the assets that matter most to them such as pubs, theatres, shops, or local sports clubs.
There have been a number of new policies aimed at supporting people and places directly around the UK, including a £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, which will invest in local infrastructure such as town centres, transport and local culture and heritage.
Specifically mentioned was £18.8 million earmarked for local cultural infrastructure projects in Carlisle, Hartlepool, Wakefield and Yeovil to boost the vibrant cultural life of these towns and cities.
£10 million has also been put towards the renovation and expansion of the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil, Somerset.
The government also announced plans to celebrate the United Kingdom’s culture as a whole, putting aside £28 million to support the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022, creating a major celebration event for the whole of the UK.
Changes to taxes and rates
The Chancellor also announced an extension to business rate reliefs and a continued VAT cut for the UK’s tourism and hospitality sectors, aiding recovery and growth in sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.
Alongside this, planned alcohol duty rises have been scrapped and alcohol duty has been frozen for a second year running to support the hospitality sector.
An increase in corporation tax has been announced for 2023, allowing the economy to recover from the pandemic before increasing corporation tax on the largest and most profitable businesses in the UK. This hopes to raise even more money for the government, helping to balance the money provided in vital support over the pandemic.