A couple of good headlines not enough to make up for government’s appalling failure to act

23 July 2020

Bectu has criticised the government’s appalling failure to act to save the arts, in response to two damning parliamentary select committee reports into the response to COVID-19.

Stage door at the Theatre Royal in Brighton

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs, responding to the findings of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee, 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.

“As a result of this, and of the changes to the furlough scheme, casual workers are being laid off across the UK. They are joining the many thousands of forgotten freelancers who have been let down by this government’s oversight.

“Theatres can theoretically open from next weekend but haven’t been given enough notice to do so. Even when they do open, necessary distancing measures will mean they can’t sell enough tickets to break even.

“It’s time the government realised that a couple of good headlines are not enough to make up for its appalling failure to act. It’s time for properly targeted action to save this sector.”

Treasury select committee: government must change tack

Also today (23 July) the Commons Treasury select committee commented on the government’s response to its June report, Gaps in Support. The committee said it remains convinced more people can be supported through the coronavirus income support schemes and has called for a government rethink.

Philippa Childs said:

“The Treasury committee is just the latest voice to warn about the gaping holes in the government’s financial support scheme in response to the COVID pandemic.

“Bectu has been warning for many months about the plight of the people falling between the gaps of the Self-employment Income Support Scheme and the Job Retention Scheme, particularly in the creative industries. We can now add many thousands more casual workers and short-term PAYE contractors to the ranks of the excluded as changes to the scheme result in layoffs across the country.

“As the select committee recognises, this government has played fast and loose with headlines about the support that has been put in place but been slow in actually getting support to the people who need it, and many thousands of workers in the creative industries have received no support at all. It is not too late for the Chancellor to help those people but he needs to act now.”