UK nightclubs have hit back at a “ridiculous” lack of support for the sector in today’s Budget amid warnings that time is running out to save this summer’s music festivals.
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said chancellor Rishi Sunak had failed to recognise the specific challenges faced by clubs, bars and casinos, many of which have been forced to remain shuttered since last March.
“While the roadmap announcement gave hope to our sector last week, the chancellor is now at risk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” said chief executive Michael Kill.
“With the money spent on support to date, it is ridiculous that many nightlife businesses may now fall at the final hurdle.”
Sunak today confirmed extensions to VAT and business rates relief, as well as an additional £300m for the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) and a £5bn hospitality restart programme.
But the NTIA warned these measures did not go far enough to support the night-time economy.
“With no meaningful expansion to CRF eligibility, and no bespoke support for our sector, we are once again left with a package totally incommensurate with businesses’ costs — including spiralling commercial rent arrears,” Kill said. “The loan solutions outlined by the Chancellor just aren’t good enough for businesses that are already overburdened with debt.”
While the lobby group welcomed the extension of the furlough scheme to September and extra support for the self-employed, it said the chancellor “continues to let down” other freelance workers who have missed out on support to date.
It came amid warnings that the “clock is ticking” for the government to save festivals and other live music events this summer.
Industry body UK Music said the industry urgently needed a government-backed insurance scheme so that organisers could start planning this year’s events without the risk of further Covid-related cancellations.
Several major festivals including Glastonbury and Download have already cancelled their 2021 events, and UK Music warned of further cancellations if the right support was not put in place.
Chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin described the support outlined in today’s Budget as a “step in the right direction” but warned time was now running out.
“We want to create an unforgettable summer of sound and showcase the best of British music as we emerge from the impact of the pandemic,” he said.
“To make sure we can move ahead with live events, festival and concert organisers need the confidence that there is the safety-net of an insurance scheme that is already enjoyed by the film and TV industries.”