MP’s on the House of Commons Digital Cultural and Media Committee are calling on the government to extend the furlough scheme for companies working in the arts and leisure sectors to prevent industry wide redundancies over the coming months and lasting into next year.
The warning is backed by figures that show more than half of workers in the sectors remain dependent on furlough compared to 13% across all industries.
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak is being urged to accept the unique situation faced by the arts and leisure sectors which have become “hostages to fortune” following the government’s decision to shut down venues and leisure centres with current restrictions on audiences and activities preventing a return to business as usual. MPs urge the government to extend the furlough scheme until venues are able to fully reopen.
The Committee flags concern that twice as many companies in arts, entertainment and recreation report a risk of insolvency than in other industries.
In order to safeguard the future of the arts and leisure sectors, the government must show the flexibility demonstrated by Germany and France in extending their schemes to 2021, it says.
DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP said:
“The job retention scheme has been a lifeline for companies that employ people in the arts and leisure sectors. We’re making it absolutely clear to government that if furlough is cut off in October, not only will mass redundancies follow but we can expect many cultural organisations to go out of business, never to return.
We know that more workers in these industries depend on the scheme to pay their wages than in any other. Minister should recognise their duty to provide ongoing support for people hard hit by this crisis and extend the help on offer to organisations facing restrictions on how they operate.
We should not allow the arts and leisure sectors that contribute amazing value to our economy to become ‘hostages to fortune’ as a result of failure to act now before it’s too late.”
The Committee’s letter to the Chancellor comes a day ahead of an appearance before MPs by composer and producer Andrew Lloyd Webber on the financial viability of reopening performance venues that meet the government’s social distancing requirements.