Statement from Caroline Norbury MBE, Chief Executive, Creative UK, on the impact of the Omicron variant on the UK’s Creative Industries

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With the Omicron variant causing a surge in cases of Covid-19 across the UK, many in the creative sector are once again facing immense financial challenges. The government’s advice to reduce social contact has triggered a significant drop in both ticket sales and visitor numbers for those businesses reliant on audiences and footfall, including performing arts venues as well as museums and galleries. The 27% no show rate reported by LIVE for events in recent days is matched by a 27% decrease in average gross income for venues last week, as reported by the Music Venue Trust. In addition to this, high isolation rates among staff and performers have led to the cancellation of many live shows and events, from the West End to local arts centres in every corner of the UK.

At a time of year when venues should be full to the rafters and experiencing a much-needed boost to their finances, many are now facing bleak winters with a crippling loss of income. The uncertainty and instability for these institutions as they move into 2022 will undoubtedly be felt throughout the sector, with questions marks over exhibitions and performances leading to a loss of work for artists, performers and other creative practitioners.

While acceleration of the booster rollout in an effort to combat the rise in cases is welcome, it is clear that targeted emergency support is urgently needed to stabilise the current situation for those hardest hit.

Creative UK calls on the UK government to provide:

  • Financial assistance for freelancers – a significant part of the creative workforce – impacted by loss of work, self-isolation and illness, and a return of the furlough scheme for those impacted in full-time employment.
  • Urgent support for businesses unable to maintain their income in the coming months, including the extension of the Culture Recovery Fund and grants for small businesses unable to access this support. Treasury should also release money to the devolved governments to ensure that the Creative Industries in the nations are able to navigate more stringent pandemic regulations.
  • Extension of business rate relief exemptions in England from 67% to 100%, and repayments delayed, with the UK government following the examples set by the devolved administrations.
  • Certainty that the government’s Live Events Reinsurance Scheme covers the situation arising from Omicron and COVID-19 related cancellations.
  • A reintroduction of the 5% emergency VAT rate for live events and removal of the planned VAT hike to 20% in April 2022.

 

Without introducing immediate measures there is a substantial risk that much of the government’s work to support the Creative Industries during the pandemic to date will be undone. We must ensure this does not happen.