Tuesday 29 September 2020 2:18 pm

Report: 'Worst-case' Covid-19 scenario could "wipe out" London's cultural sector

The West End could suffer a 97 per cent slump in added value by 2024 if stricter long-term coronavirus restrictions are imposed, businesses have warned. 

A new report showed that the Covid-19 pandemic could cost the West End’s arts and culture sector £4.7bn annually in 2024 under a “worst case scenario” involving a year-long lockdown. 

Read more: London theatres call for ticket discount scheme to revive West End

The research, by the Heart of London Business Alliance and Arup, said London’s cultural sector would be “wiped out” if offices and venues cannot reopen, only essential travel is allowed and digital entertainment becomes the default. 

Under this worst case scenario, where London suffers repeated, strict, lockdowns similar to the one imposed in March, there could be a total loss of £18.5bn in the period from 2020 to 2024.

If the capital faces “seasonal outbreaks” of the virus, it could cost the West End economy £15bn in the years to 2024.

The analysis found that even under a return to some normality the pandemic would result in a loss of £5.4bn over the five year period. 

The report recommended continuing the original Job Retention Scheme until mass gatherings are permitted, a business rates holiday for all venues until March 2022 and grant funding to help make venues Covid-19 secure.

Heart of London Business Alliance chief executive Ros Morgan said: “Central London has so much to offer in terms of culture, retail and leisure, 

“But for it to be there for us in the good times, we need to be there for it in the bad times.”

Read more: A three-step recovery plan for London’s West End

She added: “The most recent lockdown measures announced by the government will further hit the businesses in the centre of London, including the cultural sector, which relies on tourists and commuters more than any other part of the country.

“And the business support measures announced by the chancellor, though welcome in themselves, do not reflect the reality of what London’s cultural sector is going through.

“If you can not get anybody through your door then you are realistically not going to be in the market for a part-time job support scheme”.

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