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Music industry ‘disappointed’ at lack of insurance scheme in Budget

Music industry bosses say a Government-backed insurance scheme is needed (Ben Birchall/PA)
Music industry bosses say a Government-backed insurance scheme is needed (Ben Birchall/PA)

The chief executive of UK Music has said he is “disappointed” a Government-backed insurance scheme for the music industry was not included in the Budget.

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin welcomed measures that were unveiled by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday such as the extension of furlough, additional support for the self-employed and the VAT cut on ticket sales.

However he said the absence of a cancellation insurance scheme would leave many festival organisers making “really difficult calls” about whether to proceed this summer.

UK Music, which represents the collective interests of the sector, and the Association of Independent Festivals have in recent weeks called for a range of measures to be put in place to help the industry get back up and running this year, including coronavirus cancellation insurance.

Mr Njoku-Goodwin told the PA news agency: “There definitely needs to be a dose of reality. The road map (out of lockdown) was incredibly encouraging and it has given us more clarity than we have had in a year.

“We have finally got a date where we know events will be able to start up again and the way it is looking there won’t be legal impediments to events happening from June 21.

“But the big issue we have now get is this issue of insurance and the risk.”

Budget 2021
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled his Budget (House of Commons/PA)

Mr Njoku-Goodwin said the music industry wants to help drive a “post-pandemic social and economic recovery” but a number of “really pressing issues” remain.

“At the moment we are in this frustrating situation where we want to be getting back up, we want to be getting ourselves off the economic support schemes that the Government should be credited with bringing in for the last year,” he said.

“But as grateful as we are for those and welcome as they have been, we want to be getting off them as soon as we possibly can. We don’t want to rely on them a minute longer than we have to.

“But while we still do not have an insurance scheme we are going to find ourselves drawing on that economic support for a good time to come yet.”

A number of festivals, including Reading and Leeds, Isle Of Wight and Parklife in Manchester, plan to go ahead with dates in late summer or early autumn, following the Government’s announcement it hopes to remove all legal limits on social contact by June 21.

However, Mr Njoku-Goodwin said there remains “a lot more nervousness in the sector” about organising events in June, July and August without appropriate insurance.

Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, also said it was “disappointing” the Government had not included an insurance scheme in the Budget.

He said: “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.

“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 organisers need to cancel plans and enable more to go ahead with confidence this summer.”

Greg Parmley, chief executive of Live, the UK’s official industry body for live music, also called for an insurance scheme to support festivals.

Download Festival 2015 – Day Three – Donington Park
Download Festivals has already cancelled its 2021 edition (Katja Ogrin/PA)

He said: “Today’s Budget focused on helping live music to survive the long months of closure still ahead of us – and we desperately need that. But we also call on the Chancellor to look again at a Government-backed insurance scheme, which would ensure we can recover, and get people back to work, as quickly as possible once it is safe to lift restrictions.”

Steve Heap, general secretary of the Association of Festival Organisers, warned thousands of freelancers could “fall down the cracks” without further action.

He said: “The Chancellor appears to have heard our need for support and we welcome the holding of 5% VAT on ticket sales to September 30 2021.

“This extension will give festivals the chance to sell tickets at the lower rate and provide much-needed cash for our businesses.

“Our industry needs a Government-backed insurance scheme to allow us to get back up and running in 2021. We will continue to campaign for this insurance support because without the certainty it provides, the UK economy could lose most of our economic contribution to the economy.

“We are disappointed that without business premises and without business tax returns thousands of freelance festival staff will again fall down the cracks and to survive on Universal Credit with its £20 per week extension.”

Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, said many of the announcements were “hugely welcome”, but he also backed the call for insurance schemes.

He said: “The 2021 Budget contains the extension of many vital support mechanisms that have helped the performing arts industry through the pandemic and it is wonderful that the Government recognises the value of our world-leading culture sector.

“In order to reopen, theatre and the performing arts continue to need insurance cover and we call upon the Government to put this in place as for other sectors.”

Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, said the measures would provide welcome relief to the sector.

“We welcome the emergency measures announced in today’s Budget, including the extension of support schemes to September, the inclusion of the ‘newly’ self-employed and the £408 million injection into arts and culture, which we and others have been calling for.

“These measures will provide relief to many in the UK’s creative industries, a sector that has been amongst the worst hit by the pandemic and that will be one of the latest to return to work.

“Greater flexibilities in the apprenticeship scheme are very welcome, as we seek to spread opportunity within the creative industries more widely, as is the six-month extension of the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme.”