The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Night-time Economy has revealed the impacts of Covid-19 on the sector, and set out a number of recommendations for government in a new report.
The group of 40 MPs sought to document the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sector in order to make recommendations to government of future support.
Prior to the pandemic, the night-time economy generated £66 billion a year for the UK economy, employing 1.3 million workers including many freelancers. However, social distancing and lockdown regulations have prevented much of the sector from opening fully, if at all, since March 2020.
Through surveys of businesses and individuals working in the sector, as well as its suppliers, the report described the industry as being ‘on its knees’ as a result of shutdowns and a shortfall in government support. 78% of employees in the industry have been furloughed at some point during the pandemic; only 36% of freelancers and self-employed workers in the industry have been eligible for self-employment income support programmes from government.
The report also outlines the social, as well as economic, costs, raising concerns that urban centres may become ‘ghost towns’ without further support for the night-time economy from government, hobbling future economic recovery.
APPG Chair, Manchester Withington MP, Jeff Smith, said:
Before entering politics, I was self-employed as a DJ and events manager working on concerts, festivals and events around the UK. In doing so, I worked with a host of creative and skilled people, and have seen the amount of planning, talent and energy it takes to run a business in the night-time sector. I know that these industries have been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic and I also know that these are industries that bring hope, joy and entertainment to millions across the UK.
“Returning to ‘normality’ may seem a long way off, but for those working in the night time economy, this is even more so. Nightlife businesses have been absent from lockdown exit strategies, and many in the sector have remained in the same, unchanged, closed position as they were in March 2020, with almost no indication of if, and when, the sector can reopen.”
As a result of its fincings, the APPG set out a number of recommendations for how the government can support the night-time sector going forward; these include:
- Extending the furlough scheme until businesses can operate without restrictions, and extending VAT and business rates relief through 2021.
- Producing a roadmap for reopening late night venues based on the vaccination programme and mass testing.
- Expanding eligibility for the Culture Recovery Fund and proving a sector-specific support package for the sector.
- Providing a government-backed insurance scheme and a solution to spiralling commercial rent debt.
- Providing a Treasury-backed campaign to drive consumer demand in the sector when safe to do so.
The report also commended Night-time Economy advisors in London, Greater Manchester and Bristol for their roles in promoting the sector’s profile. Sacha Lord, who holds the role in Greater Manchester, commented on the report’s findings, saying:
“In addition to the financial support highlighted in the APPG report, we need an urgent reappraisal of opening dates if the latest leaks are true.
“I cannot see any reason why hospitality cannot reopen at the same time as non-essential retail.
“There are no statistics that show hospitality is a significant source of coronavirus transmission. The lack of clarity and evidence for these restrictions only serves to frustrate operators and the public, and will not only continue to cause job losses on a colossal scale but will inevitably lead to a higher rate of unsafe, indoor domestic mixing.”
The full report is available to read on the Night-time Industries Association website.