HomeResourcesPolicyCultural Policy Readout / 7 July 2020

Weekly round-up of the latest from Westminster and beyond, from our partners at Whitehouse Consultancy

Government unveils a £1.57bn support package to help UK culture, arts and heritage sectors

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has announced a £1.57bn support package to help Britain’s cultural, arts and heritage institutions. Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues will be protected with emergency grants and loans. Funding will also be provided to restart construction work at cultural and heritage sites pauses as a result of the pandemic.

The package announced includes:

  • £1.15 billion support in England delivered in £270 million of repayable finance and £880 million in grants;
  • £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
  • £188 million for devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33 million), Scotland (£97 million) and Wales (£59 million).

Decisions on awards will be calculated alongside expert independent figures from the sector including Arts Council England, Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, and the British Film Institute.

Reactions to this extraordinary news have been pouring in across the sector. Here’s a selection from some of our partners, stakeholders and key industry bodies:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sets out strategy for rebuilding Britain

As mentioned last week, Boris Johnson has announced the details of the Infrastructure Delivery Taskforce and the UK’s plan for economic recovery post-pandemic. The new taskforce, led by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is called Project Speed and it will bring forward proposals to deliver the government’s public investment projects more strategically and efficiently. The taskforce aims to cut down the time it takes to develop, design, and deliver housing developments and infrastructure projects.

It’s fair to say that reaction to the Prime Minister’s “Build Build Build” announcement has been rather less positive than reactions to the DCMS deal for culture. RIBA president, Alan Jones, warned that ditching the requirement for planning applications in even more cases was at odds with the Government’s own stated ambition to Build Better, Build Beautiful.

Of greater concern for the heritage sector – a key consideration for Pioneering Places and our associated projects – is the joint statement in response by the Council for British Archaeology and Chartered Institute for Archaeologists:

“Some of the permitted development changes announced already are likely to have impacts on the historic environment of England, particularly on buried heritage assets with archaeological interest on brownfield sites, undesignated historic buildings and the setting of designated heritage assets, local character and amenity. We will await detailed policy documents so that we may understand if/how the Government intends to ensure heritage is protected and if certain heritage assets, such as conservation areas will be exempted, or heritage impacts mitigated.”

Culture in the House

Tracey Brabin MP asked the following written question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent estimate he has made of the number of jobs that will be lost in 2020 within the arts, heritage and libraries sub-sector as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.“

Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Culture and Digital responded and said:

“In order to support the sustainability of the Arts sector, DCMS has worked closely with Arts Council England (ACE) to provide a tailored package of financial support. In March, ACE announced a £160m emergency response package to complement the financial measures already announced by the Government and to ensure immediate resilience of this vital sector.

This package includes £140 million of support for artistic organisations and £20 million for individuals, so they can better sustain themselves, and their work, in the coming months. More than 9000 individuals and organisations have been successful in applying for this emergency funding. Additionally, the National Lottery Heritage Fund launched the £50 million Heritage Emergency Fund, and Historic England has launched two £2 million Emergency Funds.

The Secretary of State, myself and officials continue to consult the Art and Heritage sectors extensively to ensure we fully understand the impacts of Covid-19 and remain well placed to respond as it develops.”

The week ahead…

  • The Select Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have an oral evidence session on the “Impact of COVID-19 on DCMS sectors”
  • HM Treasury oral questions including topical questions on Tuesday 7th July 11:30am, Whitehouse will monitor for any relevant questions, in particular, on the recently announced support package.

Covid Update

The Department for Transport has announced air bridges to 60 countries, the de facto arrangement will entail quarantine-free travel to about 60 “low-risk” countries but will initially apply only to people arriving into England. A traffic light system would be introduced that allows holidaymakers to travel abroad without having to self-isolate for two weeks on their return. The change will be introduced in England from Friday 10th July, with Germany, France, Spain, and Italy among the first countries to be in the agreement.  The announcements mean that foreign holidays will be possible for the first time in over three months, but people would need to spend at least six days at their destination to avoid the need to quarantine when arriving back in England.  

Also announced, the UK government is planning to introduce daily televised press briefings. Downing Street has said the new format would be similar to that used by the White House in the US, the briefings are expected to start by October. Currently, political journalists are allowed to question the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson, who is a civil servant, off camera twice a day. As the briefings are on record, this means they can be quoted and attributed to the spokesperson, under the changes, the briefing will be live on camera.  

Finally, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, has drawn up additional proposals help rebuild the economy, such as: lifting the threshold at which people start paying stamp duty from £125,000 to as much as £500,000; a temporary VAT cut for pubs, restaurants and cafés to help protect 2.4 million jobs in the hospitality sector; and finally, plans to give companies £1,000 for each apprentice they take on and multibillion-pound “green jobs” package to avoid mass unemployment, a further £100 million will be invested in traineeships for young people to help them find work, The Times reveals. This on top of the government announcement of £1.57 billion investment to protect the arts, culture and heritage sector.

Brexit Update

After weeks of trade talks and little progress, both sides agreed on one point: that the trade talks need to intensify. Now the UK’s chief negotiator, David Frost, and his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, have met in person since talks began in March due to COVID-19. But, despite face-to-face engagement the UK and the EU have still said serious differences remain over a post-Brexit trade deal, following the latest round of negotiations, the BBC reveals. In the latest talks, Mr Frost said the EU’s “unrealistic positions” would need to change if there was to be any progress. This comes as the key issue remains of the so-called “level-playing field”, to ensure businesses on one side do not have an unfair advantage over their competitors. Michael Gove, Cabinet Minister, formally confirmed two weeks ago that there would be no extension, thus both sides believe a deal would need to be in place by October to be approved by the end of the year.  

Whitehouse Consultancy

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