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Arts, Culture and Heritage: Support Package

Volume 678: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2020

I wish to set out to the House details of the £1.57 billion rescue package that the Government have provided to support the arts, creative and heritage sectors to respond to the economic shock caused by coronavirus.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected the whole economy, but presents particular challenges for organisations that depend on engaging with audiences and visitors in person. It has forced thousands of cultural institutions to close their doors and, while some galleries and museums reopened on 4 July, even those that have reopened face significant financial constraints on operating in a socially distanced way.

Through the establishment of the Cultural Renewal Taskforce, and the Entertainment and Events Working Group, I have been working closely with the cultural sector and medical experts to address these challenges and to try and help organisations to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.

However, this pandemic will continue to disrupt business models in the cultural sectors and social distancing will mean that crowded venues are not possible for some time. This means that much of the UK cultural sector, including well-established organisations that had robust business models prior to the coronavirus pandemic, are not able to restore their incomes, and face significant financial risks which if not mitigated could lead to widespread insolvencies and loss of much of the UK’s invaluable culture and heritage.

Government have therefore taken action to provide the necessary support that will help organisations to survive this period and reopen when it is safe and economically viable to do so.

This funding represents the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture, and builds on the financial assistance many cultural and heritage institutions have already received from the Government’s pan-economy measures including loans, business rate holidays and participation in the coronavirus job retention scheme. More than 350,000 people in the recreation and leisure sector have been furloughed since the pandemic began.

The rescue package will support thousands of organisations across a range of sectors including the performing arts and theatres, heritage, museums, galleries, live music and independent cinema. It will cover both the largest and most famous institutions, and the lesser known but equally cherished cultural and heritage organisations in regions across the country—those which have been the anchors of their local communities for years.

This funding package includes:

£1.15 billion support for cultural organisations in England delivered through a mix of grants and repayable finance.

£100 million of targeted support for the national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust.

£120 million capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England which were paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This new funding will also mean an extra £188 million for the devolved Administrations—with the following allocations via the Barnett formula: Northern Ireland (£33 million); Scotland (£97 million); and Wales (£59 million).

Decisions on awards will be made by DCMS arm’s length bodies, in particular the Arts Council England, British Film Institute, Historic England, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, working alongside expert independent figures from the sector.

The funding will predominantly be grant funding, with repayable finance available for the largest organisations. This repayable finance will be issued on generous terms tailored for cultural institutions to ensure that it is affordable.

In order to receive support, organisations will need to demonstrate that they are at risk in this financial year and have done all they can to support themselves. We will be prioritising institutions of national and international significance and those that are crucial to safeguarding access to culture and driving economic growth across the whole country.

Further details on the scope of the fund, the criteria that will determine which organisations are eligible for each element of the fund, and the timing for allocating funding, will be set out in detailed guidance. DCMS is working intensively with its arm’s length bodies, and will publish this guidance for applications shortly.