Rishi Sunak

Spending review – our response

WGGB has responded to the Government’s Spending review, presented in the House of Commons today (25 November 2020) by Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured above).

Opening with stark statistics about public borrowing of over £390 billion in the wake of Covid-19, representing the biggest peacetime shock to the UK economy, Sunak also said the economy would contract by over 11% this year, its largest fall for 300 years, and growth would continue to be slow for the next five years.

He outlined the need to take difficult choices, and announced an array of spending pledges he said were designed to protect people’s health and jobs.

This included investment in schools, the NHS, the criminal justice system, social care, and housing.

Yet he received criticism in the House for freezing public sector pay for key workers such as teachers who earned over £24,000 and for refusing to plug the gaps in Covid-19 support for the self-employed.

WGGB General Secretary Ellie Peers said:

“We understand that we are in unprecedented economic times, but the failure of the Chancellor to address the gaps in support for the self-employed workforce means many will be facing an extremely difficult winter.

“The estimated three million who have unfairly fallen through the cracks of Covid support are facing a desperate financial situation, and hardship for themselves and their families, not to mention the impact on their mental health.

“It is difficult to square these facts with the Chancellor’s pledge to protect people’s health and jobs and we, alongside our sister unions and others, will continue to press the Government hard on this issue.”

The spending review comes off the back of the Government’s new Tier system announcement this week, which outlined measures for when the current lockdown ends on Wednesday 2 December.

The announcement has been met with dismay from many in the beleaguered theatre sector as, under Tier Three, no indoor performances are allowed, while under Tiers 1 and 2 theatres can only run at 50% capacity.

Peers added: “Our playwright members have been particularly hard hit during Covid, with theatres struggling to keep up with confusing and rapidly changing restrictions, unable to programme new work under such difficult circumstances and without the much-needed insurance that the TV and film industries have been granted.

“The vast majority of theatres and live venues saw their doors close in March and this looks set to continue until next spring.

“We’re here to support our members in these difficult times and we will continue to make the case to Government about the importance of our world-leading creative industries that contribute over £111 billion to the UK.”

Members can access sources of support on mental health, emergency funding, training and more on our special Covid-19 advice page.

On 27 November 2020 WGGB was one of many organisations who wrote to Rishi Sunak calling on him to fix gaps in support for those self-employed people excluded from Government support. Read the letter here.

Photo: Shutterstock.com/TSalci