Extend emergency Covid measures: our latest statement - Museums Association

Extend emergency Covid measures: our latest statement

The Museums Association is fighting hard to ensure museums get the support and investment they need to see them through the Covid pandemic. In light of the ongoing nature of the crisis, we are calling on the UK and devolved governments to extend the emergency measures that have been so essential to the sector during this time.

Sharon Heal, director of the MA, says: “Museums and galleries across the UK are keen to welcome visitors back as soon as it is safe to do so. However, after many months of closure we know that the road to recovery for museums is going to be long and difficult. It will take time for visitor confidence to return and for organisations to put themselves on a sound financial footing.

“We simply can’t afford to see an abrupt end to emergency measures, the furlough scheme and business rates holiday, which have been so vital in keeping museums alive during lockdown. We are asking government to continue these measures beyond April. Failing to do so could risk undoing much of the emergency investment in the sector to date, bringing more redundancies and possibly permanent closures of museums across the UK.”

The MA is meeting governments and stakeholders this week to make the case for continued support through this time of unprecedented challenge.

Our statement to the UK and devolved governments

The continuing Covid crisis is having a hugely damaging effect on the UK’s museums and museum workers.

The Museums Association is grateful for the many steps that governments across the UK have taken to support the sector in the past year, including the provision of emergency funding via business rates relief, the Culture Recovery Fund and the furlough scheme. However, the continuing lockdown and protracted closure of the sector means that additional support is required.

The majority of museums have utilised the furlough scheme and other emergency measures during their extended period of enforced closure. Despite these measures, museums and heritage organisations have had to make drastic cuts to their workforce – 4,000 people have been made redundant since the beginning of the Covid crisis, according to our latest data.

We believe that there is a serious risk that emergency investment to date could be undermined if the UK government withdraws financial support abruptly in spring 2021. Even if museums are able to reopen their doors to the public at some point during the spring or summer, their ability to recover from the crisis is dependent on numerous additional factors: when domestic visitors are confident and able to return to museums; when international visitors are able and confident to return to the UK; and the financial position of parent organisations such as local authorities, universities and charitable bodies. Without additional support for the remainder of 2021, we expect that there will be a substantial increase in the number of redundancies in the sector; and an increased risk of permanent closure for some institutions.

We are therefore calling on the relevant governments across the UK to:

  • Extend the UK Furlough scheme until December 2021
  • Extend the Non-Domestic Rates holiday for another year
  • Ensure that the Valuation Office fully and fairly implements the Exeter Business Rates decision across the sector
  • Permanently remove the Museums and Galleries Exhibitions Tax Relief sunset clause
  • Introduce a Culture Recovery Fund Round 3 to support the recovery of museums for the remainder of 2021
  • Allow museums to reopen as soon as public health situation allows
  • Use the current period of closures to invest in museum maintenance and upkeep, including via the existing MEND fund in England
  • Work cross-departmentally to ensure that museums can play a full role in delivering government priorities including supporting young people and learning; tackling poverty; addressing climate change; renewing high streets and enhancing wellbeing.

The Museums Association will continue to work closely with governments and stakeholders across the UK to support these aims.