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Culture sector welcomes end of Covid restrictions, but says support is crucial

The Prime Minister detailed his ‘living with Covid’ strategy to the Commons on Monday afternoon.

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A general view of the Royal Albert Hall in London (David Mirzoeff/PA)

A general view of the Royal Albert Hall in London (David Mirzoeff/PA)

A general view of the Royal Albert Hall in London (David Mirzoeff/PA)

The arts and the culture sector has welcomed the end of Covid-19 restrictions, but said it is “crucial” the Government continues its support and “does not abandon and set the sector adrift”.

Boris Johnson detailed his “living with Covid” strategy for England to the Commons late on Monday afternoon, which confirmed people who test positive for coronavirus will no longer be legally required to isolate from Thursday and free universal testing will end in April.

Those who receive a positive Covid-19 test will still be advised to stay at home for at least five days, but will not be obliged to under law under the plans subject to parliamentary approval.

The arts, culture and heritage sector has suffered greatly during the last two years due to forced closures and further coronavirus restrictions causing them to lose revenue.

Greg Parmley, chief executive of Live – which represents music industry venues and the entertainment sector including companies, artists and backstage workers, said: “The end of Covid-19 restrictions represents a huge, welcome relief to the live music sector, which lost billions in revenue throughout the pandemic.

“But with spiralling costs and thousands of companies struggling with pandemic debt, it’s crucial that Government does not abandon and set the sector adrift, just as it starts to tread water again.”

Live added that to “avoid further business closures and job losses” within the sector, it is asking for the Government to defer the increase of VAT rate on tickets sales due to take place in March and to consider a cultural VAT rate of 5% on ticket sales.

It is also calling for a further extension on the business rates relief scheme until the end of the 2024-5 tax year.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, also welcomed the plan for “living with Covid”, but called for further support for the sector.

He added: “We now need to see further economic support for our sector to regain consumer confidence and ensure a full recovery from the pandemic.

“Despite this most recent announcement, we will remain focused on our responsibility to keep customers and staff safe, maintaining baseline mitigations as we have done since July 19 2021.”

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson updates MPs in the House of Commons with the plan for living with Covid-19 (House of Commons/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson updates MPs in the House of Commons with the plan for living with Covid-19 (House of Commons/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson updates MPs in the House of Commons with the plan for living with Covid-19 (House of Commons/PA)

Mr Kill also called for the extension of VAT and business rates relief, adding: “This is a sector that has sacrificed more than just about any other part of the economy, and it seems right that continued support is commensurate with the scale of hit that we took during the pandemic.”

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Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), was also positive about the latest Covid-19 plan and the prospect of a “full capacity festival season”, but noted the sector was still feeling the effects of the pandemic.

He added: “With festival organisers facing crippling cost increases of up to 30% across operations and infrastructure, this is not back to business as usual for festivals, and it is not a case of ‘job done’ for ministers.

“AIF reiterates its call for ongoing support from Government in the form of continued VAT relief on festival tickets to maintain the current reduced 12.5% rate on tickets beyond the end of March, and to also explore some form of Government-backed loan scheme for suppliers to alleviate some of these pressures and encourage investment in the festival supply chain.”

Greg Marshall, the general manager for the Association For Electronic Music, also noted the “fragility” in the chain between business and individuals within the sector.

He said that ongoing support would be required to recover the sector, as well as the industry working to build back consumer confidence to ensure audiences would return to their events.

In January, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said tax relief for theatres, orchestras, museums and galleries will be extended for two years, to March 2024, in order to help them rally after months of closures and lost revenue.

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