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Music and Film Funds supporting City Region's economic recovery

THE Liverpool City Region's Music Fund has supported more than 50 music industry businesses, including venues, studios and promoters, through the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling them to play their part in the City Region's economic recovery. Established in April by Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, the ₤150,000 Music Fund has provided urgent support to micro businesses and SMEs, many of which were at risk and not covered or eligible for national Government support, to help them through the pandemic. The Fund has been administered by a panel from the membership of the Liverpool City Region Music Board, formed in 2018 as an independent, sector led Board. The Board, which reports directly to the Metro Mayor, is responsible for growing and supporting the music sector.

Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram said:- "Creativity is in our collective DNA and our music, film and TV industries are huge assets to the City Region, contributing ₤228million to our economy every year and providing 5000 jobs. The scale of the challenge facing the creative sector generally is huge and will need serious investment from central Government. We have done all we could with this fund, but I'm conscious that no City Region alone can provide support on the scale that is necessary. That said, we know from the feedback we've received that this funding is making a real difference to those companies it has supported. At some point we will emerge from this pandemic and we want to ensure that, when we do, as much of our cultural ecosystem as possible has survived. I'm committed to building our economy back better than it was before; greener, cleaner and more inclusive; and protecting these sectors, which play such a key role in our wellbeing and happiness, is a key part of that challenge."

The Fund was launched at the same time as the ₤250,000 Film and TV Development Fund which is investing in the development of content across all feature film and TV genres. This remains open until 30 September 2020. Applications were received from a range of music industry businesses including event and tour management services, studios and music venues, with grants made ranging from ₤500 to ₤5,000. The funds were originally earmarked for projects taking place later in the year but were brought forward by the Combined Authority, in response to the struggles facing many music businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Deputy Chair of the Liverpool City Region Music Board and Managing Director of Sound City, Becky Ayres said:- "As a UNESCO City of Music, and with its unparalleled history, Liverpool as a City Region is globally significant. We also have the evidence to prove the economic importance of the music sector to the local economy. The overarching purpose of this fund is to ensure that the sector is a position to bounce back and continue the growth trajectory we were on once we are out of the current situation."

Gary Murphy, from Centro Del Blanco, a tour management business based in Knowsley, added:- "My work in the live sector of the music industry has come to a complete standstill. With new social distancing measures my ability to earn a living has disappeared overnight. The impact will be felt right though out the sector from the talent through to drivers, merchandise men, bar staff and stage hands, we will all feel the effects of Covid 19. The support I and others have received from the music fund is invaluable and will allow myself and others to return to normal trading once restrictions are lifted."

The application process has also revealed the range of small businesses in the music industry based across the Liverpool City Region. This has enabled the Liverpool City Region Music Board to better understand the level of current need and explore further ways to generate future support.

Andy McLoughlin, from Audio Dust in Wirral, commented:- "The Liverpool City Region Music Fund is a great help to my business. It will enable me to explore new avenues during a difficult period and to help my business grow. It is essential to my being able thrive in the face of current adversity"

Louise Nulty, Project Manager at the Studio in Widnes, said:- "LOOSE and all at the Studio in Widnes are thrilled to be able to continue working with the young people of Halton. With our rehearsal rooms and recording studio being shut because of Covid-19 and Lockdown we have been concerned about the musicians getting enough support. Through this funding we can now re-energise the young musicians and even explore avenues we might not have been able to to, looking at home recording and tuition which is additional to what we can normally offer. We have started working with some new people and look forward to building on those relationships as we move forward out of Lockdown, we are hugely grateful to this fund for enabling this work. We have called it Making Waves as that is what we will be encouraging the young people to do regardless of the current restrictions."

Applications to the Music Fund are now closed, but the Film and TV Development Fund is open until 30 September 2020. For more information go to:- LiverpoolFilmOffice.TV.

Make UK welcomes flexible Furlough, but advises care to be taken with arrangements

MAKE UK, the manufacturers' organisation, welcomes the introduction of new 'flexible furlough' arrangements from 1 July 2020, which offer financial and operational benefits, but highlights areas where employers must take particular care. To guide them on their way, Make UK has created a new letter template, to help employers agree flexible furlough with employees as they move towards recovery.

"Flexibility is helpful, but implementing new flexible furlough arrangements, which allow employees to return to work on a part time basis, will not necessarily be straightforward. Make UK's legal and HR experts have been tracking the furlough scheme since its inception, guiding employers through its complexities on a daily basis. Our original furlough letter template has been downloaded over 125,000 times and our advisers have answered more than 10,000 COVID-19 related calls."
says Sara Meyer, Principal Legal Adviser at Make UK.

The Make UK policy team are in constant communication with the Government, enabling it to represent employers' views and make a genuine difference to how they get back to business. This has included successfully lobbying for the introduction of flexibility into the furlough scheme.

What is flexible furlough?

Under the original Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the 'Scheme') employees on 'furlough' remained employed, receiving 80% of their regular pay, up to a cap of ₤2,500 per month (which employers could claim back from the Government), but they could not perform any work for their employer. From 1 July 2020, employers can agree to bring furloughed employees back to work part time on 'flexible furlough' and they will be responsible for paying employees' wages while they are working. Government support will only cover non-working hours and will gradually taper down as the Scheme draws to a close, which is expected to be on 31 October.

Here are Make UK's top tips for navigating the new flexible furlough scheme:-

Getting the numbers right:- Subject to a few exceptions, the number of employees that can be flexibly furloughed is limited to the maximum number claimed for in a claim period under the original Scheme. Bear in mind, if the workforce currently rotates on and off furlough, not everybody will be able to come back on flexible furlough at the same time.

Picking the right people:- Only employees who have already completed at least 3 weeks of furlough on or before 30 June 2020 (with some limited exceptions), can be flexibly furloughed after 1 July. HR also need to take care to avoid discrimination when selecting employees for flexible furlough.

Working out the hours:- Calculating employees' usual working hours for the purpose of claims requires careful attention. Different formulae apply depending on whether employees work fixed or variable hours and whether their pay varies according to their hours.

Reaching agreement:- Flexible furlough should be agreed and not imposed on employees. If the workforce is unionised, this may be done via collective agreement. Flexible furlough agreements need careful drafting to ensure that the arrangement works effectively.

Timing of claims:- Businesses will need to choose an appropriate claim period to make the best use of the financial support available for flexible furlough and implement a robust calendar alert system to ensure claims are submitted at the right time.

Balancing the budget:- Claims will only cover flexibly furloughed employees' non-working hours and the monthly cap on furlough pay will be proportional to the hours not worked. Does the budget balance? In addition, the level of Government support will gradually decrease from 1 August.

To download the flexible furlough letter template, go to:- MakeUK.Org.

In addition to the latest flexible furlough letter, further resources are available in Make UK's Furlough Letters and Resources Pack designed to help businesses assess risk, put in place strategies to restart and maintain effective production, and assist HR in ensuring as smooth a return as possible to:- "business as usual."

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