It’s too soon to start winding down the furlough scheme, with the events, travel and entertainments sectors still suffering the financial effects of the coronavirus restrictions, Caroline Lucas said today.
The Green MP for Brighton Pavilion spoke out as the phasing out of the covid furlough scheme and other business support measures gets under way today (Thursday 1 July).
Employers will now be required to pay 10 per cent of furloughed staff’s wages while business rates relief and other support measures are also being phased out.
The MP said: “It makes no sense for the furlough scheme to be wound down for sectors like entertainment, travel and live events which still can’t operate and may take some time to get back on their feet once lockdown restrictions are lifted later this month.
“I’ve kept in close touch with local businesses over the past 15 months and know that many are still dealing with the scars of the pandemic which will take some time to heal.
“There is a real risk that businesses will fail just as they hope to turn the corner.
“They have rightly been supported since the start of the pandemic with business rates relief and delays on VAT payments.
“And the Chancellor is being very premature in pulling the rug out from under their feet just as they start to open up.”
She was one of a cross-party group of 22 MPs who called on the government to bring in measures to help the music industry weather the extension to lockdown rules.
The group, which also includes Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalist MPs, said that the sector faced a “profound challenge” in the pandemic – and that its workers were a “national asset who will be critical to the recovery”.
The live music sector, including night clubs, had been preparing to reopen at full capacity on Monday 21 June – but this was delayed until Monday 19 July amid a rise in cases.
The MPs called for a government-backed coronavirus cancellation insurance scheme for live events, the extension of support to match the extension of restrictions and parity across UK nations and regions with regards to the extension of the 100 per cent business rate relief, with additional support for freelancers.
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive of industry body UK Music, said: “It’s welcome to see support for the UK music industry from MPs right across the political spectrum. Now it’s vital that this cross-party support is converted into action by government.
“We are determined to play our part in helping drive the post-pandemic recovery and want to see live music events back as soon as possible.
“With the right support from the government, the music industry can get back on its feet and deliver a summer of live music and create thousands of jobs.”
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “Our support for the music industry throughout the pandemic has been unwavering, with over £200 million allocated to over 800 organisations via our unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund and more support is on the way.
“We are aware of the wider concerns about securing indemnity cover and are exploring what further support may be required when the sector is able to reopen.”
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