The Association of British Orchestras (ABO) has called on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to put in place the necessary measures to support the UK’s thriving, diverse and innovative orchestral sector.
The request comes ahead of this week’s upcoming autumn statement – and following the recent decision by Arts Council England (ACE) to withdraw funding from some classical music organisations.
Amid record inflation, a cost-of-living crisis and revenue streams yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, the ABO urged the government to extend the tax relief rate temporary 50% for orchestras, which is currently expected to be reduced to 35% from April 1, 2023 and back to 25% on April 1, 2024, within at least one year. The increased OTR rate of 50% is proving crucial to making projects viable, leading to higher activity and employment rates in the sector than would otherwise have been possible.
Judith Webster, CEO of ABO, said: “We have recognized the difficult decisions that have been made in ACE’s 2023-26 National Portfolio. We particularly welcome the investment in youth ensembles and the inclusion of a more diverse range of organizations including Orchestras for All, Manchester Collective, Chineke!Black Lives in Music, National Children’s Orchestras and Awards for Young Musicians, all of whom do inspiring work to expand access to culture across the country.
“However, while welcoming continued investment in the UK classical music sector, we are also deeply concerned about the impact of the withdrawal of funded portfolio for some organizations and the significant reduction in funding for others. . We are particularly concerned about our members working in opera and contemporary music, where the biggest funding cuts have fallen.
“Continued support for our sector is particularly needed at a time when orchestras are still in the early stages of recovery, restoring the confidence of live audiences and weathering the headwinds of the cost of living crisis and Brexit. . A 50% rate extension is the critical measure that will allow UK orchestras to rebuild revenue streams and plan with confidence for the future.
The UK orchestral sector has succeeded in grow your audience and has performed live each year to more than 4 million people across the country, engaging 700,000 participants in educational and community programs.
This success has been recognized by the government’s decision to support many ABO members during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cultural Recovery Fund was designed to protect the country’s “cultural crown jewels”. Elsewhere, a new National Plan for Music Education has recognized the vital role played by orchestras in establishing partnerships with schools and music services. Orchestras like the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and many others have also undertaken pioneering work in health care and communities, increasing opportunities for those who have least access to the arts.
“The OBA will continue to offer support to members who have been removed from the portfolio and to those whose funding has been reduced during this transition period,” continues Judith Webster. “We urge the Chancellor to extend the OTR rate by 50% to help support the UK’s renowned orchestral sector to build its future resilience and sustainability in these unprecedented and challenging times.”
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