The COVID-19 crisis presents the biggest threat to the UK’s cultural infrastructure, institutions and workforce in a generation. That’s one of the headlines from a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) report conducted by a House of Commons select committee.

The DCMS committee found that the Government has consistently failed to recognise the scale of the challenge facing culture, sport and tourism and the Government has been “too slow” to respond to the needs of the DCMS sectors during the COVID-19 outbreak with many organisations facing an “existential threat” to their survival, say MPs.

In a wide-ranging report, the DCMS Committee finds Ministers have consistently failed to recognise the scale of the challenge that COVID-19 presents to culture, sport and tourism.

MPs say the response to the crisis by the DCMS has been hampered by the department’s lack of spending power and a fundamental misunderstanding across Government of the needs, structures and vital social contribution of sectors such as the creative industries.

DCMS remains one of the smallest Government departments by budget and staffing and has seen one of the highest turnover of Secretaries of State of any, with Oliver Dowden as ninth in the role since May 2010.

The report finds the loss of performing arts institutions and cultural workers would put at risk the Government’s “levelling up” agenda and reverse decades of progress in cultural provision, diversity and inclusion.

Julian Knight MP, chair of the DCMS Committee, said: “We are witnessing the biggest threat to our cultural landscape in a generation.

“The failure of the Government to act quickly has jeopardised the future of institutions that are part of our national life and the livelihoods of those who work for them.

“Our report points to a department that has been treated as a ‘Cinderella’ by government when it comes to spending, despite the enormous contribution that the DCMS sectors make to the economy and job creation. We can see the damaging effect that has had on the robustness and ability of these areas to recover from the COVID crisis. The £1.57 billion support is welcome but for many help has come too late.

“We urge the Government to act on our recommendations, to recognise the value these sectors provide and imagine how much bleaker the outcome for all without their survival.”

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO, commented on the report: “Having made a detailed submission to the DCMS Committee, we welcome the findings of this report, which specifically acknowledges that the UK’s thriving festival and live events sector has been particularly badly hit by this crisis. Our sector has lost an entire year of income. This is an existential threat and we have been banging the drum for festival specific support since the outset. We’re particularly pleased to see that our recommendations for long-term relief, including extensions of existing employment support schemes and an extended VAT cut, have been taken onboard. We look forward to working further with DCMS to ensure that the festival sector, which generates £1.75 billion for the UK economy and supports 85,000 jobs, can survive and continue to thrive into 2021 and beyond.”   

Image: Aaron Paul/Unsplash

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