Now that the dust has settled on the Budget that Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out yesterday, we can see that the measures announced are a mixed bag for musicians.
SEISS and furlough schemes
The extension of furlough and SEISS until September is good news for those that are covered by these schemes, though we have consistently told the Government that 38% of musicians have had nothing from either initiative.
The schemes are also being tapered off, with employers having to pay more towards furlough as the year goes on and the SEISS fifth grant also being reduced for those whose turnovers have dropped by less than 30% (although this won’t affect most musicians as turnovers have generally dropped by a lot more than 30%).
The widening of SEISS to include people who declared themselves self-employed in their 2019-20 tax returns is welcome news for some of our members who up until now have not been eligible. Looking at the statistics from our impact surveys, we are hoping that this change should bring about 15% of excluded musicians into SEISS. We will be monitoring the detail closely as it comes out and advising members accordingly.
It is very disappointing that the Chancellor did not take the opportunity to make further changes to SEISS that would have corrected some of the other unfair gaps in the scheme and we will continue to lobby on this front along with other organisations such as ExcludedUK.
It’s no good saving buildings and not the people who work in them
Equally, although on the face of it the additional £300m for the Culture Recovery Fund is good news, we will be pushing the Chancellor to make sure that some of this money is available to freelancers in England this time – as it has been previously in Wales and Scotland.
MP Alison McGovern illustrated this unfairness very clearly when she spoke in parliament on Tuesday:
“Today’s Budget trail tells us the Government have found some more cash for the Culture Recovery Fund. Support is welcome but the fund saves buildings not jobs. It’s now a year since many freelancers have had an income at all.
“We know that freelancers have been able to apply for some of the funding in Wales and Scotland so could the Minister say what consideration he has given to a similar approach in England? It’s no good saving buildings if people who work in them won’t have a penny to get by.”
We want to provide as much direct support as possible
We know that the next six months are going to be tough for members and as well as pressuring the Government to invest in musicians, we also want to provide as much direct support as we possibly can. That’s why we’ve just announced another extension to the subscription holiday scheme.
The Union will also be rolling out a programme of online training and events over the next six months and we hope to be able to release more details of this very soon. The training will be exclusive to MU members and will be aimed at updating skills and ensuring that our 31,000 talented musicians are best placed to get jobs as the industry reopens.
We will also be working with employers, engagers and the Government to ensure the return to work across the live sector, orchestras, music education and recording is fully Covid-safe and that pay, terms and conditions remain fair.
We will ensure that those who are higher risk do not face discrimination when seeking work. Our web guidance will be updated as the UK Government and devolved authorities' roadmaps unfurl. We are here for members, as always, to answer any questions and address any problems that might arise as they return to work.