Bectu letter urges the Chancellor to support workers and venues until the crisis is over

24 February 2021

Philippa Childs has written to the Chancellor, urging him to use the Spring Budget to extend CJRS and SEISS until lockdown restrictions are fully lifted and to work with industry to ensure a successful reopening of theatres, venues, cinemas and live events.

The letter welcomes the publication of the roadmap but warns that the reopening of many cultural venues won’t happen overnight, and with capacity restrictions in place until at least the end of June, workers and businesses will require continuing support until restrictions are completely lifted and productions are back up and running.

The letter has been sent on a day when the Telegraph has reported that the Chancellor is considering closing SEISS early, before the economy has fully reopened.

Philippa Childs, Head of Bectu, said:

“It would be shocking if the Government closed the SEISS before the lifting of lockdown restrictions. Thousands of freelance workers in the creative industries are relying on SEISS to provide them with an income, and it would be a truly cruel act to pull the plug on this vital support just as there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.

“Thousands more have been unable to access SEISS or CJRS at all. Instead of scrapping support schemes, the Chancellor should be using the Spring Budget as an opportunity to finally provide support for the millions of excluded workers.”

Mike Clancy, General Secretary of Prospect, also warned today that the ending of SEISS would be a betrayal of self-employed workers. He said:

“The Treasury has treated the self-employed as an afterthought throughout this crisis, and if this story is correct then this Budget will see one of the biggest betrayals yet.

“The self-employed can power the economic recovery into the medium and long-term but only if they are supported properly now. Ending support in the Spring would cause a fresh crisis for tens of thousands of workers who are already struggling.

“This crisis is not yet over. Instead of putting the brakes on the recovery, Rishi Sunak should be giving it rocket boosters by extending the support scheme and closing the gaps so that all these workers have the freedom and confidence they need to boost the economy through the rest of the year.”

Full list of measures Bectu calls for in a letter to the Chancellor ahead of the Spring Budget:

  • Extension of government support schemes:The extension of CJRS and SEISS are necessary at least until restrictions end. Normal production will take time to resume and it is critical that a cliff edge is avoided, with a tapered withdrawal of the schemes to ensure that no one is left without support.
  • Support for excluded freelancers:Thousands of creative freelancers have fallen through the gaps in government support schemes and suffered great financial hardship as a result. Provisions must be made to ensure that these excluded groups are accounted for and included in financial support schemes on the road to the recovery.
  • Seat Out to Help Out:For most venues, operating at a 50% capacity when they re-open will not be financially viable. To help the industry to get back on its feet the Government should consider a Seat Out to Help Out (SOHO) scheme to subsidise spaces that are required to be empty, until at least such a time that they can operate at full capacity.
  • Clarity on testing:The Government must give theatres and venues more clarity about testing. For example, cast members need to know how often they will be required to get tested, and audience members need to know if they are required to have tests before visiting a venue. The Government must make this clear ahead of re-opening, to afford industry the necessary time to organise a structure for testing within the venue.
  • Insurance backing for theatres, venues and events: The government has rightly provided the film and TV industry with an insurance scheme to enable them to restart productions. Theatres and venues require this same support otherwise they risk losing millions if hit with closures, as happened in December.
  • Support for touring professionals: The live events industry has been devastated by the pandemic, and the EU trade deal as it stands presents a huge barrier to working in Europe which will hamper the industry’s recovery. The government must reopen negotiations with the EU and secure a free cultural work permit and carnet exception that will allows touring professionals to work throughout the EU.

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