No Mention Of Live Music In UK Budget

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak holds the Budget box as he stands outside 11 Downing Street with his Treasury team:
Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
– Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak holds the Budget box as he stands outside 11 Downing Street with his Treasury team:
Financial Secretary to the Treasury Lucy Frazer QC (left) and Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Helen Whately.

The UK has opened back up. To someone just visiting, it could seem like everything was back to normal. And while the reopening has brought a feeling of recovery with it, it cannot hide the fact that the live events sector has had to bear losses across the board.

Huge challenges remain for the live biz, if it wants to to return to anything resembling the pre-coronavirus success, most importantly lasting VAT and business rates reliefs, as well as an accessible insurance scheme that will allow promoters to plan events risk-free.  And while the UK’s Autumn Budget of 2021 contains some encouraging news for the culture sector in general but fails to mention music even once. 
It confirms a £850 million ($1.2 billion) investment in and tax reliefs for the cultural sector, the beneficiaries mentioned include museums, libraries, theaters, orchestras and galleries. Music, let alone grassroots music venues, are nowhere to be found in the 110-page document, accessible here
They can only hope they’re included in what Rishi Sunak, the country’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, described as “local culture” in his Oct. 27 budget announcement. 
Sunak, to be fair, did mention music venues once, although only in connection with a new 50% business rates discount valid for one year. The government is also cancelling next year’s planned increase in the business rates multiplier, which amounts to tax cuts for businesses worth £4.6 billion ($6.3 billion), according to Sunak. The UK live music body LIVE has worked out that this means “bills are 3% lower than without the freeze” for “all ratepayers, large and small.”
Phil Collins of Genesis at The OVO Hydro, Oct. 7, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns
– Phil Collins of Genesis at The OVO Hydro, Oct. 7, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Concerts and tours are happening again in the UK, but the road to recovery is long and treacherous.

In terms of coronavirus recovery, the budget allocates £52 million ($71 million) in new funding for museums, cultural and sporting bodies next year, plus an additional £49 million ($67 million) in 2024/2025. It remains to be seen, which businesses will be considered part of the cultural body, and how easy it will be for them to access funds. 

In a section dubbed “support for hard-hit sectors”, it mentions £42 million ($57 million) “to support the UK’s world-leading creative industries, including supporting SMEs to scale up and providing bespoke support for the UK’s independent film and video game industries.”
The budget allocates £2 million ($2.7 million) for a Beatles museum project in Liverpool. Music professionals in the UK are questioning whether that money could be spent more wisely to help the live music sector.
A sector that’s only just managed to survive the crisis of the past 19 months while suffering losses and sustaining casualties, particularly in the supply chain.
One last item on the budget, which the live music sector may hope to benefit from, are the £14 million ($19 million) in each year until 2024/2025, which are dedicated to support the UK’s “world-leading creative industries, including supporting SMEs to scale up and providing bespoke support for the UK’s independent film and video game industries.”
Sunak did not mention an extension of the VAT break on ticket sales. The current rate of 12.5% will last until March 31, 2022, at which point the rate will return to the old 20%.
The budget doesn’t contain any updates or information on the accessibility of the UK’s insurance scheme for live events, for which the government allocated £800 million ($1 billion). 
Another major concern for the live events sector, touring in particular, is Brexit. Sunak didn’t mention it once, the report only talks about “opportunities” associated with the UK’s departure from the EU.

Greg Parmley.
– Greg Parmley.
Head of ILMC and CEO of the UK’s live music body LIVE.


Unsurprisingly, reactions to the UK’s 2021 Budget have been mixed. Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, commented: “We’re glad to see that live music will receive some benefit from today’s Spending Review – including tax relief, business rates, and some extension in terms of funding. 
“However, with the word ‘music’ completely absent from today’s announcement, we remain steadfast in our drive to see Government pay attention to the key issues we are facing: the impacts of Brexit, the recovery from COVID and the long-term growth of the sector. We need Government to give us the tools to make progress, which were unfortunately missing from today’s news.”
Paul Reed, CEO AIF, said, on the surface the budget didn’t go far enough in supporting a world-leading festival industry. “It is clear that the most effective way for the Government to support the industry’s recovery into 2022 and beyond would be to extend the VAT reduction on tickets, look closely at a permanent cultural VAT rate, and completely remove festivals based on agricultural land from the business rates system. Unfortunately, none of this was forthcoming today,”  he explained, adding, “we look forward to hearing more detail about some of the measures announced by the Chancellor, in particular the allocation of further Covid-19 recovery funding for the cultural sector. “
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which is concerned with the wider hospitality sector, commented: “Today’s Budget had some important announcements that will enable the hospitality sector to continue to drive the economic recovery. The announcements on business rates relief for hospitality, the simplification of Alcohol Duties, and the cut in duty for draught beverages will be welcomed by thousands of businesses in the night time economy. 
“This sector was devastated by the pandemic, with many businesses sadly not making it through, but the resilience we have shown to this point has been incredible. Despite this, businesses are still suffering from increased operating costs and with the potential for interest rates to go up being very problematic, as so many having taken on debt during the pandemic.
“To these businesses, the announcement’s today will be important in allowing them to continue to support the wider recovery, and ensuring a limit to the extent of increased prices being felt by consumers.”
Kill also referred to Rishi Sunak’s expectations that the UK economy would recover quicker than initially expected. Sunak said, “Thanks to this Government’s actions, they forecast the economy to return to its pre-covid level at the turn of the year – earlier than they thought in March.”
According to Kill,  “the improved forecasts for growth announced by the Chancellor today are good news, and the reopening of the night time economy has been a key part of this better-than-expected bounce back. We were disappointed that the Chancellor chose not to extend the 12.5% rate of VAT on hospitality – this is a missed opportunity, and it will prevent those forecasts from improving further still.”