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Labour calls on government to protect arts sector with extension of business rate relief

THOUSANDS of theatres, museums, galleries, cinemas and high street businesses face permanent closure without government help and tens of thousands of jobs are at risk, Labour warned yesterday.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is being urged to extend business rate relief to save them.

New Labour research shows that rate relief would save enterprises an average of £53,000 over a six-month period, giving “a breathing space to embattled venues and stave off the threat of closure,” Labour said.

Labour’s shadow communities secretary Steve Reed also called for a 5 per cent reduction in value added tax (VAT) for the hospitality, tourism and culture sectors to continue for another six months or until three months after the lifting of lockdown restrictions, whichever comes later. 

The reduced rate is set to expire on March 31, when it will return to 20 per cent. 

Mr Reed said: “Theatres, galleries, cinemas and museums are the cultural heartbeat of our town centres but they are under threat as never before because of this government’s incompetence and economic mismanagement. 

“The Chancellor’s dither and delay has created uncertainty for businesses, cost jobs and threatened our recovery, despite Labour’s repeated calls to provide businesses with breathing space by extending the business rate holiday and the VAT cut for hospitality and leisure.

“Britain can’t afford the Chancellor to make the same irresponsible mistake all over again. 

“He must give businesses certainty and reduce the risk of losing both jobs and life-enhancing cultural institutions.”

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