The government’s autumn statement is “neglecting” the entertainment sector, trade associations say

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said the fall statement does not go far enough and lacks clarity as entertainment trade associations and industry groups react to the Chancellor’s announcement.

Jeremy Hunt delivered his autumn statement to MPs in the House of Commons on Thursday, saying he must make difficult decisions to ensure a “flatter downturn” but the economy will still contract by 1.4% in 2023.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the NTIA, a trade body representing the UK economy in the night economy, said: “This government is guilty of neglecting thousands of companies and millions of employees and freelancers in the night economy, this budget has not gone far enough and still lacks clarity and will no doubt see large numbers of SMEs and independent businesses disappear in the coming months.

“If businesses were to prepare for the busiest time of year, they need to think about their future now and will remember the fourth failed attempt to budget to protect businesses at the sharpest end of the crisis.

“The impact on people is not taken into account, this will not only have a devastating impact on business owners but also on the individuals and families who have dedicated their lives and livelihoods to this sector.”

Meanwhile, Sacha Lord, the night economics adviser for Greater Manchester, warned entertainment venues may close faster after the autumn declaration than during the pandemic.

He tweeted: “Operators are being squeezed beyond their capabilities and I fear we will now see huge staff cuts, shorter hours and venue closures more quickly than during the pandemic. It’s a very sad state.

“We will now see consumer spending slow over the coming weeks and months, at a time when operators need the most support as they recover from the hangover of pandemic-related debt.

“Disposable income is supporting the UK economy and I am very concerned that the measures outlined today will result in a severe contraction in the sector. Spending on luxuries like eating out is of course the first to go in times of austerity.”

Live chief executive Jon Collins said the chancellor’s fall statement had done “little good” to the live music industry.

The industry group represents the interests of the industry, brings together the 14 most important live music associations and represents more than 4,000 artists.

Following the announcement, Collins said: “While we welcome the Government’s desire to bring stability to the UK economy, today has done little to secure the future of our £4.5 billion industry and 200,000 employees.

“Unprecedented operating conditions are bringing our industry to the brink as popular venues close their doors, tours are canceled and artists exit the industry.

“The pandemic hangover coupled with the increased cost of living has resulted in 54% of people saying they are less willing to attend live entertainment, putting incredible pressure on the live music sector.

“Today we renew our call to reintroduce a lower VAT rate on ticket sales to inject money into the bottom line of struggling companies, bring us into line with many other European countries and secure the future of live music for all.”

In response to the fall statement, Paul Pacifico, executive director of the Association of Independent Music, called for investment in the next generation of creatives.

He said: “AIM welcomes the government’s proposed tax cut to corporate tax rates, but as small independent businesses increasingly find themselves facing rising costs, the UK music industry will suffer unless we provide greater incentive to invest in the next generation of creative and entrepreneurial talent .

“While we understand the need to cut costs in today’s budget, we urge the government to seriously consider measures to support the future of the sector in the spring statement.

“For example, extending creative industry tax breaks to UK music could play a crucial role in encouraging investment and maintaining a healthy music ecosystem.”

Philippa Childs, leader of broadcasting and creative industries union Bectu, also criticized the budget, saying: “There is very little in this budget to calm the perfect storm the UK theater sector is about to face. Its workers and businesses have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic and continue to face challenges in getting audiences to return.

“They are now battling rising operating and living costs with low wages, unpredictable employment and reduced viewership. This is in addition to the ongoing post-Brexit tour restrictions.

“The Chancellor is talking about growth and stability, but it seems this budget is a missed opportunity to boost the UK’s creative sector. There is very little in the budget’s “growth” rhetoric that indicates how the government intends to protect and sustain our world-leading creative industries – which contribute so much, both culturally and economically.”

Ms Childs said the lack of “definitive support measures for the self-employed” was “incredibly disappointing” and that while there are energy support payments for the most vulnerable, the statement for “one more workforce” says “almost nothing” is bearing the scars of the pandemic and continues to be affected insecure jobs”.

The Music Venue Trust also responded to the statement, calling for a live music commission in the UK.

The charity, which works to protect, safeguard and improve UK music venues, issued a statement saying: “Music Venue Trust welcomes the Government’s announcement that the retail, hospitality and leisure facilitation will be available at business rates, which includes the majority of UK grassroots music venues, will be extended from 50% to 75% from 1 April 2023.

“However, we have written to the Treasury to ask them to clarify the support being offered to venues worth over £110,000 – there is a lack of clarity in the Autumn statement on what is being proposed for such venues.

“In January 2020, before the pandemic, the government committed to a full review of business rates for folk music venues. We urge the Chancellor and the Prime Minister to bring forward this review as soon as possible.

“The UK has the highest building taxes for grassroots music venues in Europe. This needs to change for our live music industry to remain competitive.

“The government has not chosen to respond to calls to reduce VAT on ticket sales. The UK continues to have the highest VAT rate in Europe on live music tickets. That needs to change for Britain to be competitive.”

It added: “The government says it is committed to stability and growth. Despite his laudable move to ensure some stability in business rates for another 12 months, the many opportunities to stabilize and grow the live music sector are consistently missed, budget by budget, statement by statement.

“Our grassroots music events sector creates 29,000 jobs and delivers over 170,000 performances to more than 20 million people. It is a vital sector with real opportunities for growth, but these are not recognized and acted upon in this autumn statement.

“Music Venue Trust is asking the government to set up a live music commission. This body can be tasked with examining the significant opportunities for stabilization and growth of the live music sector, with the aim of informing future government policies so that these opportunities are not consistently missed.”

Hannah Essex, Co-Chief Executive of the Society of London Theater and UK Theatre, said: “The financial environment for theater stages and producers remains challenging. Acquisition and production costs have risen significantly and our viewers’ disposable income is falling in a livelihood crisis.

“Given these circumstances, expanding this budget and increasing tax breaks for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will provide a small safety net for some of our venues.

“However, we now urge the government to turn its attention now to measures that will boost economic growth.

“The theater industry stands ready to work with government to deliver growth in our world-leading sector.

“Other welcome measures include increased spending on education and we hope to highlight the benefits of arts and creative education with Sir Michael Barber in his new role as adviser to the Government’s skills programme.

“And with the government launching a new energy efficiency task force, we look forward to promoting the Theater Green Book as a model for leading industry-wide business practices.”


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