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Britain at risk of becoming a ‘cultural wasteland’ if government fails to speed up rescue package for the arts, Bectu warns

BRITAIN is at risk of becoming a “cultural wasteland” if the government does not speed up its process for paying out its promised rescue fund, an entertainment workers’ union warned today.

Bectu welcomed the report by MPs in the culture, media and sport select committee said that the government has been “too slow” to address the threat to the existence of the arts sector as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The report found that the government’s support package of £1.57 billion took too long to come, resulting in redundancies that may otherwise have been avoided.

The MPs recommend flexible versions of the furlough and self-employment income support schemes, and the publication of a “no earlier date” for when performances will be allowed indoors and outdoors with a fuller audience by August 1.

Philippa Childs, head of Bectu union, said: “It has now been more than two weeks since the much vaunted ‘rescue package’ was announced but not a penny of that has yet been allocated and theatres and other institutions are pressing on with redundancy packages because they have no idea where that support is going.

“As a result of this, and of the changes to the furlough scheme, casual workers are being laid off across the country. They are joining the many thousands of forgotten freelancers who have been let down by this government’s oversight.

“Theatres can theoretically open from next weekend but haven’t been given enough notice to do so. Even when they do open, necessary distancing measures will mean they can’t sell enough tickets to break even.

“It’s time the government realised that a couple of good headlines are not enough to make up for its appalling failure to act. It’s time for properly targeted action to save this sector.”

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