I thank Elliot Colburn for clearly setting out the case for urgent support for the weddings and live events sector.
One of my constituents recently stated to me, “Music is part of this country’s rich fabric, its heart and soul.” Those words really resonated with me, not least because of my own constituency’s rich musical and artistic heritage. From Ewan MacColl to Madchester, we have long relied on a blossoming night-time and live events economy, and we have been very proud of it.
However, the last six months have pushed many from across the sector into extreme financial hardship. We have seen everything from the complete closure of many live venues through to the exclusion of many businesses and freelancers from the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s business support schemes. Indeed, ExcludedUK estimates that more than 3 million are excluded from any Government business support at all. The Night Time Industries Association states:
“Recent announcements have given some light, but we have lost so many businesses, employees and self-employed already, we are still in a very vulnerable state.”
The weddings and events industry is equally vulnerable. In some cases, venues were able to reopen in a limited capacity as lockdown eased; others had to remain closed completely. Within my constituency there are places such as Ordsall Hall and Salford Lads Club, which both do weddings and live events, in addition to numerous venues beyond the city that employ my constituents, such as Samlesbury Hall.
These venues employ a number of staff, in addition to all the suppliers along the way, who supply everything from the table placeholders to the wedding dress to the cakes and flowers. Many weddings take years of planning and are now being postponed, because couples understandably want all their family and friends to be part of what should be one of the most magical and happy events of their lives. Even if the venues were somehow able to reopen fully—safely and with no restrictions—tomorrow, these events take years of planning and simply cannot be resumed at short notice. Couples are now contacting venues and suppliers to request the rearranging of their bookings to 2021, but if these businesses cannot survive the pandemic, re-bookings will be heartbreakingly irrelevant.
The live events sector, including trade shows and exhibitions, has been affected in similar measure. I am sad to report that the absence of sector-specific support thus far has meant that redundancies have already occurred in my constituency. Those affected range from joiners to designers, and they have no idea when they will be able to secure work again.
I would therefore be grateful if the Minister could address the following concerns urgently. First, will he commit today to working with these sectors to develop sector-specific support packages? Will he commit to delivering a road map towards the resumption of normal business in a logical, covid-secure way, so that there is clarity about the future for businesses and their employees and customers? Will he review further VAT exemptions that could support affected businesses in these sectors? Will he backdate and provide equitable support to all the wedding businesses and live events venues, at least in line with other hospitality businesses? Will he urgently address the significant number of venues that have still not received any support from the culture recovery fund? Finally, will he urgently commit to implementing a financial support package to protect the 3 million businesses, workers and self-employed people excluded from any Government support so far?