U.K. lawmakers have announced a 2021 Spring Budget that will give culture workers sidelined by COVID-19 a light at the end of the tunnel. For ailing festival organizers, though, it leaves much to be desired.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak shared some of the finer points of the budget in a live statement on Wednesday. Confirming what Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden promised the day before, he said that £400 million had been set aside for the arts. £300 of the sum will be allocated to the arts and entertainment, building on the £1.57 billion set aside for the sector in 2020.
Sunak also announced extensions of the self-employment and furlough schemes as well as the Universal Credit uplift.
Incorporated Society of Musicians CEO Deborah Annetts welcomed the relief. “These are all essential, because thousands of our members have not had any work for a year and are waiting for venues to safely re-open,” she said. “The government must invest in the U.K.’s cultural industries until this crisis is over, including measures to help the estimated three million excluded freelancers.”
Notably absent from the 2021 Spring Budget, however, is government-backed insurance for event organizers. The U.K. Paliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) had lobbied for such a program in January, pointing out that insurance companies were hesitant to underwrite large gatherings in fear of a repeat of the 2020 festival collapse.
“It is welcome that the Treasury has listened to the case pressed by this committee for additional support for our outstanding arts, creative and sporting sectors that have been hit so hard by the impact of the pandemic,” said DCMS Chairman Julian Knight. “However, it is greatly disappointing that the government appears not to have heard our call to give its backing to cancellation insurance schemes for festivals, which would provide a safety net should organizers need to cancel plans and enable more to go ahead with confidence this summer.”
LIVE and the Association of Festival Organisers have also levied criticism at the Budget for failing to provide government-backed insurance in their own statements.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s full 2021 Spring Budget statement is available on the U.K. Parliament’s YouTube channel.