Advocacy during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Covid Recovery Campaigns
Our main focus this year has been to drive the recovery of the West End in response to the pandemic and to protect our members’ interests through lobbying and media activity.
The government’s budget announced at the start of March addressed many of our businesses’ immediate concerns, including the extension of furlough until September, Restart Grants, and the extension of the VAT cut for hospitality and tourism. However, these support measures are too short-term focused for central London businesses, who have been disproportionately affected. Targeted investment will be needed longer-term due to a delayed return of footfall from workers, domestic and international visitors.
We will continue, therefore, to lobby government for a Central London Economic Recovery Plan. Such a commitment would allow London to bounce back sooner and in turn, ensure a much faster recovery for the nation.
We are calling for support from Government on these immediate asks:
- A reform of business taxation
- An inward investment programme for the West End
- A public transport system which is safe, accessible, and affordable
- A globally competitive consumer offer, which is better than ever before
- A programme of clear, concise and consistent marketing and communications
- A flexibility around planning and licensing
- A levelling of the global playing field by introducing extended Sunday trading and re-introducing tax free shopping for the West End
Arts & Culture Sector
The arts and culture sector is fundamental to London’s success. In normal times, cultural tourists spend £7.3 billion a year in the capital, supporting at least 80,000 jobs, which bind the whole West End ecosystem.
The success of Central London has a positive knock-on effect for the region, given the number of people who work and travel there, and for the UK economy more broadly, given the “draw” London has globally. A key element of this is the economic ecosystem that exists in no other UK city – the agglomeration effect of this adds £211bn GVA to the economy in good times, but clearly leaves a major gap to fill when economic activity cannot happen. Therefore, politically, it should not be about Central London versus the rest of the UK – the success of the two are linked.
Even when the sector does begin to open, COVID-19 will still be with us and the sector will, therefore, need ongoing support. This support should include domestic and international campaigns to tempt people back into London, consumer incentives such as culture vouchers, restaurant discounts and discounted travel, and allowing businesses to operate normal hours so people can enjoy the full hospitality of the West End.
Immediate needs of the sector are:
- An extension of the Theatre Tax Relief Scheme and the definition of eligible core costs expanded to apply to all production expenditure and ordinary running activities.
- A Government-backed insurance scheme for theatre and arts and cultural institutions similar to that which has been given to film and TV, allowing producers, the confidence and security to produce work without the fear of Covid infection derailing opening and incurring huge costs.
- An extension of the VAT cut for arts, cultural and hospitality businesses (short term) and the reduction of VAT on admission for currently non-exempt forms of entertainment, such as “commercial” performances (long term).
- Grant funding to help make cultural venues COVID-19 secure and to enable their reopening.
We successfully lobbied on behalf of our members, working with partners to secure:
- Business rates relief and extension
- VAT relaxations and extension
- Payroll relief (job retention scheme) and extensions
- Secured workforce lateral flow testing to all business sizes
- WCC Cultural strategy
- COVID Recovery Fund for culture
- Helped secure the Mayor’s £5mil reopening plan for Central London’s promotion and marketing
- BID industry grant
- Westminster reopening guidelines
- Additional footway space, cycle routes and parking
- Flexibility in use of outdoor space
- Flexibility in opening hours, class usage and licensing
- Transport for London interim investment deal secured
- Travel guidelines for West End
- Sector specific guidelines
- Alternative modes of transport
- Supported an earlier opening of the Elizabeth line
Publication of a roadmap
- Evidence based return to kickstart the economy
- Restart grants cap raised to £18,000
- £300m provided to extend Culture Recovery Fund
- Curfew and substantial meal requirement not reinstated
In addition, we engaged with a number of key government officials on behalf of our members, including ongoing communications with Nickie Aiken MP, Paul Scully MP and a number of other London MPs. We also contributed to a number of debates in the House of Commons for our members via our local MP, including Nickie Aiken MP’s Westminster Hall debate on the contribution of cultural institutions to the local economy.
Central London Alliance
Our recovery efforts have led us to work alongside the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Blue Orchid Hotels, to set up the Central London Alliance, which consists of organisations of various sizes and sectors, to support a sustainable, economic recovery of London’s business, hospitality, cultural, tourism, and retail sectors.
We responded to five consultations on behalf of our members, please see below the responses shared:
- Westminster City Council Busking & Street Entertainment Policy (submitted 30 October) – view response here
- HM Treasury Fundamental Review of Business rates (submitted 30 October) – view response here
- Westminster City Council Statement of Licensing Policy (submitted 12 November) – view response here
- Westminster Cultural Strategy consultation
View our recent submissions and letters on behalf of our members:
- Treasury Select Committee Call for Evidence
- Response to Jeff Smith MP, APPG for the Night Time Economy
- HM Treasury Budget Representation
- Joint letter to the Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP: The worst-case scenario has become a reality for the arts and culture sector
- Letter to Treasury, Mayor of London & MPs: Business Rates
- Joint letter to Number 10: An Urgent Plea