Government’s autumn statement ‘neglects’ entertainment sector, trade bodies say

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

Jeremy Hunt delivered his autumn statement to MPs in the House of Commons on Thursday, during which he said he was having to make difficult decisions to ensure a “shallower downturn”, but the economy was still expected to shrink 1.4% in 2023.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the NTIA, a trade body representing UK business in the night-time economy said: “This Government is guilty of neglecting thousands of businesses and millions of employees and freelancers across the night-time economy, this budget has not gone far enough and still lacks clarity and will without doubt see a huge swathe of SMEs and independent businesses disappear in the coming months.

“When businesses should be preparing for the busiest period of the year, they are now having to consider their future, and will remember the fourth failed attempt to deliver a budget to safeguard businesses at the sharpest end of the crisis.

“There is no consideration for the human impact, this will have a devastating effect on not only business owners, but the individuals and families who have committed their lives and livelihoods to this sector.”

Meanwhile, Sacha Lord, the night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, warned that following the autumn statement entertainment venues may close faster than they had during the pandemic.

He tweeted: “Operators are being squeezed beyond their ability, and I fear we will now see huge cuts in staffing, reductions in opening hours and venues closing at a faster rate faster than seen during the pandemic. It is a very sad state of affairs.

“We will now see a downturn in consumer spending 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 underpins the UK economy and I’m hugely concerned that the policies outlined today will create a severe contraction in the sector. Spending on luxuries such as dining out, is naturally the first to go in times of cutbacks.”

Jon Collins, chief executive of Live, said the Chancellor’s autumn statement “has offered little help” to the live music industry.

The industry group represents the interests of the sector, uniting the 14 main live music associations and representing 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 offered little help to secure the future of our £4.5 billion industry and the 200,000 people it employs.

“Unprecedented operating conditions are pushing our sector to the brink, as much-loved venues close their doors, tours are cancelled, and artists drop out of the industry.

“The pandemic hangover combined with the increased cost of living has led to 54% of people stating they are less disposed to attending live entertainment, putting incredible pressure on the live music sector.

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

Responding to the autumn statement, Paul Pacifico, chief executive 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 on businesses rates, but with small independent businesses increasingly squeezed by rising costs, UK music stands to suffer unless we create greater incentive for investing in the next generation of creative and entrepreneurial talent.

“While we understand the need to cut costs in today’s budget, we call on the Government to give serious consideration to measures to support the future of the sector in the spring statement.

“For example, extending creative industry tax reliefs to cover British music could play a vital role in encouraging investment and maintaining a healthy music ecosystem.”

Philippa Childs, head of broadcasting and creative industries union Bectu, was also critical of the budget, saying: “There is very little in this budget to calm the perfect storm facing the UK’s theatre sector. Its workers and businesses were among the hardest hit by the pandemic and continue to face challenges in getting audiences to return.

“They are now battling soaring running and living costs with low wages, unpredictable employment and reduced audience footfall. That’s in addition to the continuing post-Brexit touring restrictions.

“The Chancellor talks about growth and stability but it would seem this budget is a missed opportunity to help 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 in both cultural and economic terms.”

Ms Childs said the lack of “definitive support measures for the self-employed” is “incredibly disappointing” and that, despite there being energy support payments for the most vulnerable, there is “next to nothing” in the statement for “a workforce still bearing the scars of the pandemic and continuing to suffer from insecure employment”.

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

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

“However, we have written to the Treasury to ask that they clarify the support being offered to venues with values in excess of £110,000 – the autumn statement lacks clarity on what is proposed for such venues.

“In January 2020, prior to the pandemic, the Government committed to a full review of business rates on grassroots music venues. We strongly urge the Chancellor and Prime Minister to bring forward that review at the earliest opportunity.

“The UK has the highest level of premises taxes on grassroots music venues in Europe. This must change for our live music industry to remain competitive.

“The Government has not chosen to respond to calls to reduce VAT on ticketing. The UK continues to have the highest rate of VAT in Europe on live music tickets. This must change so the UK can compete.”

It went on to add: “The Government states it is committed to stability and growth. Despite its welcome action to provide some stability around business rates for a further 12 month period, the multiple opportunities to stabilise and grow the live music sector are being consistently missed, budget after budget, statement after statement.

“Our grassroots music venue sector creates 29,000 jobs, delivering over 170,000 performances to more than 20 million people. It is a vital sector with real opportunities to deliver growth, but that is not recognised and acted upon in this autumn statement.

“Music Venue Trust calls for the Government to set up a live music commission. This body can be charged with considering the significant opportunities to stabilise and grow the live music sector, with the aim of informing future government policy so that these opportunities are not consistently missed.”

Hannah Essex, co-chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, said: “The financial environment for theatre venues and producers continues to be challenging. Supply and production costs have risen substantially, and our audiences’ disposable income is falling in a cost-of-living crisis.

“Given these circumstances, this budget’s extension and increase to retail, hospitality and leisure business rates relief will provide a small safety net to some of our venues.

“However, we now urge Government to now turn its attention to measures that will stimulate economic growth.

“The theatre industry stands ready to work with the Government to deliver growth in our world-leading sector.

“Other welcome measures include the increase in education spending, and we hope to highlight the benefits of cultural and creative education with Sir Michael Barber in his new role advising the Government’s skills programme.

“And with the Government’s introduction of a new energy efficiency taskforce, we look forward to promoting the Theatre Green Book as a model for leading sector-wide business practice.”