Budget includes £408m recovery package for culture 5 Mar 2021

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered the Budget against a background of an economy that has shrunk by 10%, and with 700,000 having lost their jobs across the UK. He said that the 2021 Budget is intended to support recovery. Items of greatest relevance to the cultural sector are as follows:   £408m in additional funds to support the culture sector, consisting of:  

  • An additional £300m in additional money for the Cultural Recovery Fund in England, bringing the total to £1.87bn since the pandemic began
  • £90m for national museums and cultural bodies
  • £20m for cultural projects in regional towns and cities

  Extending the furlough scheme:  

  • The furlough scheme for employees will now extend to September, continuing to provide up to 80% of salary for hours not worked, up to a total of £2.5k each month. Reopened businesses will contribute 10% of this to 31st July, then 20%.
  • The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has been extended, with a fourth grant of up to £7.5k covering February to April. There will be a fifth grant from July. People who have filed a 2020 tax return will be able to claim.

  Business support:  

  • Eligible retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will pay no business rates for three months, with up to 66% relief for the rest of the year.
  • The 5% VAT rate for hospitality and tourism will remain until 30th September, followed by a rate of 12.5% until April 2022.
  • Payments for those hiring apprentices from 1st April – 30th September will double to £3k, with £126m to support those offering trainee shifts to apprentices.

  Other issues:  

  • There will also be a new £150m fund to help communities take ownership of pubs, theatres or sports clubs.

  Rishi Sunak said “it's only right that we continue to build on our historic package of support for the sector. This industry is a significant driver of economic activity, employing more than 700,000 people in jobs across the UK, and I am committed to ensuring the arts are equipped to captivate audiences in the months and years to come." NMDC commented “this investment will be vital in supporting our museums as they reopen, and as they in turn play a crucial role in helping communities across the UK to recover from the Covid crisis.” AIM Chair Andrew Lovett was among those welcoming the news. He said “in the face of cataclysmic financial shock caused to the UK by Covid-19 and the competing demands this creates, it is tremendously heartening to see that the Government is continuing to back culture.”   The provisions have been generally well-received in the cultural sector. A majority of the measures called for by the the sector ahead of the Budget were met, including an extension to the furlough scheme and more Cultural Recovery Fund support. However, there has not been an extension to the Museum and Gallery Exhibition Tax Relief. ALVA said it welcomes the extension of reduced rate of VAT for six months but added that a year’s extension would still be needed ‘to help repair balance sheets and drive visitors and spending’. The Creative Industries Federation said that the measures will ‘provide relief to many’, although it regretted that proposals for Government-backed insurance for live events had not been adopted. Museums Freelance welcomed the SEISS provisions, but pointed to the “huge number of self-employed people who are excluded from support, including those run limited companies and those who were majority employed during the eligibility period”. Gov.uk (Budget overview), Gov.uk (Levelling Up fund), Gov.uk (all Budget documents), M + H, ALVA, CIF, Museums Journal, Guardian (reaction from performing arts), BBC