Rishi Sunak

Dear Rishi – don’t write writers out of your Budget

Writers and other creators must receive support from the Government in the upcoming Budget next week (3 March 2021), WGGB has said, and the union is calling on its members to write to their MPs making the case for the creative industries, and the self-employed workers who power the sector as the Government’s roadmap unfolds.

The UK’s creative industries contribute over £111 billion to the UK economy each year, yet have been dealt a double blow by Covid and Brexit.

Theatres have been particularly badly hit – forced to close their doors for nearly a year. New commissions have dried up, with many freelance playwrights unsure where their next pay cheque will come from.

The Government’s announcement of a roadmap earlier this week has offered light on the horizon, but a full reopening of venues looks unlikely until 21 June at the very earliest.

While the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has been a welcome lifeline for many, an estimated three million freelancers in the UK are still falling through the gaps, receiving no support at all in the past 11 months.

Domestic film and TV productions have benefited from insurance schemes in the pandemic, but the Government’s failure to agree travel rights for UK creators post-Brexit is due to have a huge impact on the sector.

When Covid restrictions are lifted, touring in EU states for UK creators will require costly administration and time-consuming bureaucracy, impacting on a wide range of writers and creative sectors, including videogames.

Reading has enjoyed a renaissance in the pandemic, yet authors’ incomes remain low, with average annual earnings less than £10,500.

We are therefore urging our members to email their MP to make the case for writers and other creative workers in the forthcoming Budget.

You can find out who your MP is here and download a template letter here.

WGGB General Secretary Ellie Peers said:

“The Government’s roadmap lays the groundwork for a cautious reopening of society, which is only right.

“Light is finally on the horizon for our beleaguered theatre sector, but with four months to go until a full reopening looks possible it is vital that the Government continues, amends and extends its financial support packages.

“We know that writers in other sectors are struggling too – either because commissions have dried up, or because the SEISS is not enough, or because they have not received anything at all.

“Brexit meanwhile continues to cast a long shadow over the creative industries, which do not exist within borders, and rely on freedom of movement to flourish.

“We hear a lot of talk from Government about hospitality and retail and travel which we know have been badly hit but it is time that the creative workers who power our world-leading sector are given the attention that they deserve.”

Photo: Shutterstock.com/TSalci