Weekly round-up of the latest from Westminster and beyond, from our partners at Whitehouse Consultancy.
Towns Fund Guidance
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government have published the further Towns Fund guidance
The government has published the ‘Towns Fund: further guidance’ which sets out key information local leaders need to prepare for a Town Deal and develop proposals in the form of a Town Investment Plan. With the guidance published, the 100 places that are confirmed for the Government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund, are now able to draw up their proposals for a multi-million-pound investment. Through the guidance, communities, businesses, cultural organisations and local leaders will be able to collaborate to create ambitious plans to transform their town’s economic growth prospects with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture.
Creative New Deal
Creative Industries Federation Chief Executive, Caroline Norbury, states an emergency fund for the UK creative sector ‘needs to come soon’
The Creative Industries Federation surveyed over 2,000 of its members – creative organisations and freelancers – on the impact of coronavirus on their work and then handed the results over to number crunchers and impact forecasters at Oxford Economics. The results are catastrophic; this year the country could lose £29bn of projected economic contribution by the creative industries, as well as
London and the South East will the worst affected both in terms of jobs and earnings, but every region and nation of the UK will be hit. The creative sector will be disrupted twice as hard as the wider economy. The blog calls for a Creative New Deal, which would not only get the creative industries back on its feet,
Covid impact on UK Theatres
UK theatre sector faces ruin amid COVID-19 crisis, say top cultural figures
Britain’s performing arts sector has been decimated and faces ruin without urgent government investment, an alliance of nearly 100 actors, writers, directors, and creatives have warned. The letter to Rishi Sunak and Oliver Dowden – the chancellor and culture secretary – follow a report, the same one detailed above, by Oxford Economic predicting 400,000 job losses and a £74bn loss in annual revenue across the arts industry.
The letter says the “British theatre is on the brink of ruin; Theatre is one of the UK’s most dazzling success stories. In all its forms, whether drama, musical, theatre, opera or dance, British theatre is a world-class cultural and economic force with productions filling venues from Broadway to Beijing.”
“The pandemic has brought theatre to its knees. Theatres do not have the money to operate viably with physical distancing. It is difficult to see venues opening before the end of the year.”
Culture in the House
Oral Questions of interest
Jacob Young MP, Alicia Kearns MP and Mark Jenkinson MP all tabled the following oral question for the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government:
“What recent progress he has made on the Towns Fund; and if he will make a statement.”
Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP replied:
“Our £3.6 billion towns fund will play a vital role in supporting our country’s economic recovery, investing in housings, skills, technology, culture and town centres, as we move beyond the immediate covid-19 response. I am pleased that in the majority of cases work has been able to continue despite the challenges posed by covid-19, and later today my hon. Friend the Minister for local growth will publish towns fund guidance, setting out the steps by which Redcar and all the 100 towns with which we have agreed these historic deals can proceed.”
Coronavirus and the Government’s emergency measures
The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has announced that the government is doing a U-turn regarding its COVID-19 contact-tracing app to focus on one developed with Apple and Google technology. Hancock stated that during trials neither of the apps was accurate enough to be used by the public and he could not indicate when, or if, a usable version might be available. This raises serious concerns about lifting social-distancing restrictions whilst still being able to control the spread of the virus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced a £1 billion “catch up” package for England. The fund will aim to help England’s children catch up on what they have missed while schools have been closed. The most disadvantaged pupils will have access to tutors through a £350m programme over the next academic year. Primary and secondary schools will be given £650m to spend on one-to-one or group tuition for any pupils they think need it.
Select Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union publish first report
The Brexit Committee has published its first report on the state of the trade negotiations, it echoes current sentiment around the lack of progress that has been made in negotiations so far. It points to the UK’s and EU’s respective red lines which are making it hard to find common ground on the “level playing field” issues. As such, the report makes recommendations to look for a solution that makes the starting point the current alignment of the UK and EU current rules and standards. The solution would explore how the UK and the EU could be given access to their respective markets on the basis that if either side tries to move away from these standards then one side could suspend parts of the trade agreement or impose tariffs.