Industry bodies have supported the findings of a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee report, which criticises the government for taking too long to announce a support package for the arts.
The report warns that the pandemic is "the biggest threat to the UK’s cultural infrastructure in a generation" and includes recommendations for flexible versions of the furlough scheme and self-employment income support schemes, and the publication of a ’no earlier date’ for when performances will be allowed indoors and outdoors with a fuller audience by August 1.
The report found the government’s support package of £1.57 billion took too long to come, resulting in redundancies that may otherwise have been avoided.
Responding to the report, BECTU head Philippa Childs reiterated the need for "properly targeted action to save the sector", and argued that "a couple of good headlines are not enough to make up for its appalling failure to act".
Childs said: "The committee report is entirely right to say that the government has been too slow to address this existential threat to the arts.
"It has now been more than two weeks since the much vaunted ‘rescue package’ was announced, but not a penny of that has yet been allocated and theatres and other institutions are pressing on with redundancy packages because they have no idea where that support is going."
Childs also criticised the lack of notice given to theatres to reopen and sell enough tickets to break even.
Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre chief executive Julian Bird also welcomed the report and its key recommendations.
"We wholeheartedly support the report’s call for government to publish a ’no earlier than’ date now for stage five of the plan to reopen performing arts venues," Bird said.
"Telling venues they can reopen with just a few days’ or weeks’ notice does not address the lead times for performance, the challenges of social distancing or the concerns about audience behaviours,” he added.
Bird also expressed support for the report’s recommendations to cut VAT on ticket sales for theatre beyond January 2021 and to extend Theatre Tax Relief to 50% for the next three years.
The Creative Industries Federation said the report reinforced evidence the arts have been harder hit by the pandemic than many other sectors.
Chief executive Caroline Norbury said: "Although government support has been welcome, the report acknowledges that some has been partial - for example, the exclusion of many of the sector’s self-employed workers - not tailored to the sector, or has, sadly, arrived too late.
"The £1.57 billion rescue package is welcome, but it is now vital that support reaches those who need it most, particularly those creative practitioners who will be unable to return to work until a much later date."
Norbury urged the government to take a "long term approach in reviewing its policies and fiscal measures" to ensure they are fit for sectors such as the creative industries.
She added: "The overwhelming crux of this report is the need for long-term systemic change in how our creative industries are supported. We need this change and we need it to begin today.”
Writing on Twitter, Equity agreed with the report’s recommendation to extend the furlough scheme and provide support for a wider range of self-employed people.
It also said the industry "desperately [needs] clear details of the funding support".
Producer Patrick Gracey called on MPs to urge the government to implement the recommendations of the report.
He said: "I am grateful for the extraordinary work by Julian Knight MP and the DCMS committee with respect to this report.
"The best way to support the theatre sector will be for productions to resume performances once it is safe to do so without social distancing in place; however, many challenges remain.
"The DCMS committee has identified the right set of measures that must be undertaken now and in the future to ensure that the sector may fully recover as swiftly as possible. I very much hope that all MPs take up this call and urge government to act upon implementing these recommendations.”
A DCMS spokesman said: "We disagree with the committee. We have worked with urgency, day-in-day-out since the start of the pandemic in providing support for our sectors and on plans to reopen them safely. Thousands of organisations and hundreds of thousands of jobs working across culture, the arts, sport and tourism have been saved by furloughing and loan schemes. Hospitality and tourism firms have also been helped by a years’ business rates holiday and a £4 billion reduction in VAT.
"Our £1.57 billion investment is the largest ever one-off cash injection into culture in this country. We have also worked with our arms length bodies on additional emergency packages and provided billions in support to charities to help those most in need. We will respond in detail to the select committee’s report in due course."