Heritage Alliance Members’ Covid and Advocacy Update
FAME is a member of the Heritage Alliance. Here is there most recent update on various hertiage issues, though mainly on COVID-19:
Some particular points to note from today include:
- DCMS is pressing for clarity on when the heritage sector and visitor economy guidance will be released. Equally they are pressing for a clear view on whether the mooted date of 4th July for some re-openings will go ahead. There is as yet no decision but they will let us know when they know more;
- There is a lot of internal work underway on the recovery agenda and DCMS is working closely with HMT on the various fiscal events that might come down the line. They are aware of the benefits of a 1m over 2m rule for the heritage sector and are grateful for the evidence fed through;
- Visit Britain spoke at the meeting about a safety kitemark they have nearly finalised. This is intended to provide reassurance to the visitor and clear consumer messaging, backed up in a belief in a robust process. Globally they noted that it is best practice to have a standard especially as consumer tracking is showing a reduction in consumer confidence about a return to normality. It will be non-negotiable for participants in any scheme to follow certain guidelines, have carried out risk assessments, and agreed to a spot check process by assessors. There will be no cost on this for participants and it won’t be mandatory, but VB is trying to galvanise the industry behind it. They hope to have details finalised next week and DCMS will keep us posted.
- The majority of the meeting was taken up with a hypothetical discussion on the impact of a second lock-down and what mitigation might be put in place. Your information was exceptionally useful and will be sent in its entirety to DCMS this week. Here’s a summary of the key themes in what you told us and we reported to Government:
- Financial: All organisations would struggle to survive without the JRS and Self-Employment Schemes resuming immediately alongside the small business grants schemes, business rates scheme and other measures. Even so, there are likely to be redundancies. We would need a continuation of support in the form of capital grants for repair works; without this year’s income a second lockdown would have a devastating effect on repair and maintenance, and on the survival of traditional skills and crafts. Funding from ALBs restricted to previous recipients would be increasingly challenging, as would the loss of funding for regular grants. Many small businesses and freelancers simply would not survive. A Stop and Start approach to lockdown is the most problematic as it allows no planning and prediction in visitors/staffing/cashflow. There are knock on costs around delays to construction projects. Fundraising ‘save’ campaigns may not get a second go.
- Staff and Volunteers: We would expect a further loss of volunteers and engagement which could lead to total un-engagement in some groups. Staff may leave if put on further furlough.
- Maintenance and repair: Loss of further income means there will be no cash to spend on maintenance and repair. Possibility of construction stopping again if not allowed under socially distanced guidelines.
- Events: Loss of further events and programming would be devastating; this is a key source of income for many (cathedrals, stately homes, museums etc).
- Summer vs winter: Most tourism businesses make up to 80% of income in the summer months. Some organisations may not be able to open again until the Spring depending on timings.
- Physical distancing is the biggest problem for many parts of the sector to keep functioning.
- Multiple refunds: these are challenging where public goodwill would be further stretched. Refunds of pre-booking systems now in play would be logistically challenging and expensive.
How can DCMS/Govt support the sector?
- Information: clarity and as much notice as possible, appropriate and measured communications;
- Guidance: Some activities which were ‘not allowed’ during this lockdown would need to continue as exemptions i.e. maintenance, security, conservation. Construction must be able to continue.
- Funding: Immediate support and continuation of JRS, SEISS, CBILS, Bounce back loans, Grants. Heritage doesn’t have tangible products which can be sold later; the loss of income can never be made up. It only starts from zero the moment lockdown lifts (or less as there are costs for re-opening or restarting of projects (especially if these are stop-start);
- A positive messaging campaign from Govt, once opening is announced. Encourage the public to visit locally and holiday domestically, as long as the ‘quarantine’ is in place, we’ll need domestic visitors.
- Localised lockdowns – is it viable to look at avoiding a national close-down and whether some parts of heritage can continue such as outdoor areas. Nuance is crucial – does it have to be a blanket closure, are there specific exceptions? Real clarity in this space is needed – can we learn from the first experience and ensure doesn’t happen e.g. urban parks vs countryside locations?
Other Covid news:
DCMS Select Committee Submission
- We have now submitted our response to the DCMS Select Committee’s inquiry into the impact of COVID-19. We had a very high level of engagement across our membership, and we have reflected your concerns.
- Owing to the rules of the Select Committee, we are unable to publish our final response in full (until it is put up on parliament.uk), but the key points raised were around:
- Mitigating the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the sector through further flexibility to the furlough scheme;
- VAT equalisation on refurbishment to boost the sector;
- Positive messaging campaign to reboot visitor confidence and expectation;
- Supporting heritage skills into the future.
- Once published online, we will share the final version with you.
Guidance: safe use of places of worship
- The government has published guidance on the safe use of places of worship during COVID-19. This includes for private prayer and for funerals. Some churches and places of worship are now open for these purposes and the Cof E reported today that there has been a muted but positive response.
- The full guidance can be found here.
Guidance: updates to the furlough scheme
- The government has published some useful guidance to explain the changes to the furlough scheme from 1 July. We ran our first legal roundtable this week with our corporate partners Bates Wells on this and other HR topics. Many thanks to those who attended. News soon on a second event…
- The full guidance can be found here.
DCMS Business Survey
- The results of a survey carried out by DCMS between 23 April and 22 May have been released.
- DCMS will be publishing selected headline findings in the coming weeks, but have made the full data set available here.
- Initial headline data, which finds that over 65% of respondents’ businesses are at immediate risk, can be found here.
Treasury Select Committee Report
- The Treasury Select Committee has published its report on gaps in support for employees and the self-employed here. The key recommendations in the report are for the government to:
- Find a way to extend eligibility criteria to all new starters.
- Remove the £50,000 cap for SEISS and allowing those with profits just over this cap access to some financial support, up to the total monthly support cap of £2,500.
- Support limited company directors who are missing out on support because they pay themselves in dividends.
- Give PAYE freelance workers access to financial support that equates to 80 per cent of their average monthly income earned in the first 11 months of the 2019–20 tax year.
- Extend support to those newly self-employed who are unable to benefit from the SEISS.
VisitBritain COVID-19 Consumer Tracker Report
- The latest report from the VisitBritain sentiment tracker is now available. Fieldwork was completed 1-5 June, and finds that the national mood is slightly down from 6.7 to 6.6.
- Full results can be found here.
VisitEngland “Get Ready to Open” Business Resource Centre
- VisitEngland have developed a new website to bring together all the guidance and resources available to businesses on reopening.
- It includes government guidance, relevant webinars, and other bits worth your time.
- The website can be found here.
New HSE Guidance
- HSE have developed a range of guidance for businesses on how to protect both staff and customers, which can be found here.
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery rating decision
- It was confirmed on Wednesday that the Court of Appeal has refused permission for the Valuation Office to further appeal the original decision over the rateable valuation of the Exeter’s Grade II listed Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM). This is a really important ruling for many of our members who have been watching this case and may have broad applicability.
- The full story can be read here: https://rammuseum.org.uk/rates/
DfID to merge with FCO
- The Prime Minister announced on Wednesday that the Department for International Development would be merged with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to create a new “super department” that would be responsible for both foreign policy and aid.
- Further details here.
Black Lives Matter Protests
Finally we are very keen to understand the perspectives of our members on debates raised by the Black Lives Matter campaigns and protests, and the related matters of memorials. Historic England’s most recent statement is here: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about-us/search-news/historic-memorials-statues-and-black-lives-matter
- Has your organisation produced any statements on the matter, received enquiries or taken a stance that you would be happy to share with us?
- Has your work been affected in any way by moves against physical monuments, memorials or buildings?
- Do you have any positive stories of engagement, reporting or thinking around these matters that you can share?
- What, if anything, would you like to see from the Heritage Alliance in this space?