Hackney Council has called for an “urgent recovery strategy” and “sector-specific financial support” to save the creative sector from the brink of dissolve.
The creative, arts and cultural industries in Hackney provide over one in 10 jobs and is key to the success of the borough's economy. In the wake of coronavirus the sector is among the most vulnerable of industries but is receiving no specific funding to help get back on its feet. Hackney Council now is calling on the government to provide relief and support for creative business to help them through the exit and recovery of the crisis.
The cultural sector has been uniquely affected by coronavirus. Data from a Creative Industries Federation survey showed that 62% of freelancers have seen a 100% fall in monthly income and 50% of creative business only have reserves that will last until June. Local data in Hackney shows 70% of respondents are not able to do any income-generating work remotely in their artistic field. Arts and cultural venues have closed - shows and exhibitions are cancelled and refunded, and all additional income-generating activities have ceased.
The Council has sent recommendations to a major parliamentary call for evidence to document the pressures faced by the creative sector.
It explained that as a local authority, the Council has done everything within its power to support the local creative sector from rent relief for businesses in council-owned premises, to free publicity and communications support to help cultural organisations build online audiences. However, local businesses have told the Council that the current level of government support is not sufficient to meet the medium to long-term challenges the sector faces.
Hackney Council and the local cultural sector are asking the government to consider the following measures that will be uniquely tailored to support the arts and culture sector:
- Extend the Job Retention Scheme for Arts and Cultural organisations until all social distancing requirements are fully lifted.
- Extend eviction protection for commercial tenants in the arts and cultural sector until all social distancing requirements are fully lifted.
- Expand the Business Rates grants initiative to include those in the sectors who are not eligible for the existing rate relief grants due to the high rateable value of their premises.
- Significantly increase the funding allocated to local authorities for the new discretionary grant fund, to enable them to effectively support parts of the sector that don’t qualify for other government support.
- Provide additional resources and access to business advice, business continuity planning and organisational development to re-build sector resilience.
- Provide advance detailed technical guidance on the phased re-opening of the sector and the advance planning of the lifting of social distancing to reassure and enable funders, audiences, participants and workers to plan ahead.
- Expand the reach and capacity of Arts Council England’s Digital Culture Network to support, enable and advise the increase in organisations now channel shifting to online programming.
- Introduce a Commissioning Investment Fund providing project led grants for the Arts, Cultural and Creative industries to help the sector underwrite the costs of restarting operations, reopening venues, starting content development and reconnecting with audiences. The fund to be HM Government financed and administered by Councils working in partnership with Arts Council England.
- Expand the current Arts Council England led Emergency Fund for organisational resilience to a forward-looking Sector Support Fund. The Council suggest this redesigned fund would focus on rebuilding audience and participant confidence through the delivery of a national public information campaign. The Fund would be financed by HM Government in partnership with Arts Council England, local Councils and the network of ACE backed Bridge Organisations. The Sector Support Fund would add additional support for the development of organisational business models, enhancing business and sector resilience, investing into the infrastructure needed to enable new ways of connecting with audiences as well as a national public information programme to support the restart of the sector.
Cllr Guy Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Planning, culture and inclusive economy said:
“The arts and cultural sector in Hackney provides more than jobs, it builds community cohesion, supports wellbeing, community resilience whilst providing a valuable local economic opportunity for local residents - but this all relies on a delicate economic ecosystem based on the fundamental dynamics of business - you need to create income to remain in business. The arts and cultural sector is no different from any other sector in our economy.
The Government has been quick to respond with welcomed short-term solutions, however, in the face of prolonged social distancing measures and the underlying threat of a COVID-19 second spike; we believe that a more ambitious and supportive recovery strategy is needed.
In our conversations with Hackney’s cultural sector throughout this crisis, it is clear there is a need for a programme of phased financial support that is arts and cultural sector-specific. As such we are calling on the Government to invest into a sector-specific support programme to secure and enable it to continue providing the social benefits and economic opportunities for years to come.”