Thank you to all those who contacted me with concerns regarding the recently-announced cuts to the BBC Orchestras and Singers.
While I understand the BBC is operationally independent, I am disappointed in this decision. I would also like to see the Government join these calls for the BBC to reconsider this choice. I am concerned these cuts will be devastating for highly-skilled musicians and future generations of singers.
The BBC’s newly proposed strategy follows last year’s Classical Music Review and includes 20% redundancies in the BBC Symphony, Philharmonic and Concert Orchestras, as well as the closure of the BBC Singers, its in-house chamber choir. The BBC has stated that these changes are part of a commitment to “work flexibly and creatively”, as well as “invest more widely in the future of choral singing across the UK”.
I truly value the contributions of the musicians at the BBC and I believe these cuts to classical music are short-sighted. The music sector not only adds significantly to our economy, at £4 billion in 2021, but is part of our cultural backbone. The Orchestras and Singers employ some of the finest musicians in the world and I am concerned that closures and voluntary redundancies could be deeply damaging to our cultural output.
Additionally, I worry that this decision will undermine efforts to expand cultural experiences and opportunities to people living outside London and urban areas.
More widely, I note concerns regarding Orchestra Tax Relief (OTR). The uplifted rate of 50% was due to be reduced to 35% in April 2023, and again further to 25% in April 2024, cutting relief by half. The Government has now announced that the relief will continue at the existing rate until 2025, which has been broadly welcomed by arts organisations. After withstanding the COVID-19 pandemic, many institutions are facing reduced ticket sales, record rates of inflation and increased fuel bills. I am therefore pleased that, following parliamentary pressure, this reduction has been reconsidered.