Bailout needed for “forgotten” live events industry, says MP

A Merseyside MP has called for more support for the live events industry saying that current coronavirus restrictions are risking thousands of jobs and livelihoods.

Bill Esterson, the MP for Sefton Central, said he had met firms in his constituency that needed more targeted financial help due to being restricted from operating.

Live events, such as the Southport Comedy Festival, and companies that host conferences and awards ceremonies, are not able to trade due to hospitality closures, social distancing rules and household mixing restrictions.

Mr Esterson called for a specific fund to be set up to help the events industry. Similar schemes for the arts have included the £500m Culture Recovery Fund, the £3.36m Emergency Grassroots Music Venues Fund and the £18m Developing Your Creative Practice fund, which have been managed by the Arts Council on behalf of the government. But these funds have not been available to many in the events sector and in any case have been insufficient for the large numbers of people involved.

Mr Esterson said the support had not gone far enough and more needed to be done to stop firms going to the wall.

He said: “I met with one events company with £60,000 a month of ongoing costs that they are simply unable to meet because they cannot hold the events that would normally make their company viable and successful. The Chancellor is assisting with support for wages, but without support for the businesses themselves there will be no jobs left to go back to. The live events industry seems to have been forgotten.

“The cultural sector makes a huge contribution to the economy in Merseyside, and without the firms supplying the lighting, staging and sound services, there can be no cultural sector.

“Even the wage support is inadequate for the self employed and those who pay themselves via dividends. Self employed support is being reduced to 40 per cent of average profits – it is just not enough for those who are still unable to get back to work. For companies with huge monthly overheads, grants of a few thousand pounds per month are inadequate. £3,000 when your overheads are £60,000 is clearly not going to work.

“The Chancellor says he wants to support viable jobs – there are thousands in this industry that are absolutely viable and the owners of these businesses need targeted support.

“While these restrictions are in place these businesses need support to keep going.

“The live events and production industry is worth over £70bm to the UK economy and supports more than 700,000 jobs, yet it is an industry that has been largely forgotten.”

Mr Esterson has written to the Culture Secretary to ask that the Culture Recovery Fund be reopened to help businesses through the next six months.