With Rishi Sunak’s second UK budget due on Wednesday 3 March, the Musicians’ Union (MU), the Incorporated Society of Musicians, the Creative Industries Federation and the London Music Fund are just a few of an impressive list of signatories to the letter.
According to HMRC data, BEIS Business Population Estimates and National Audit Office figures, 1.5 million self-employed who have been exempted from Sunak’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) are just the tip of the iceberg. The letter says that Standard Life Foundation Survey results suggest as many as 3.8 million people have slipped through the Treasury’s safety nets. Yet despite repeated calls to recognise this gap from across the political and business spectrum, Mr Sunak has rebuffed all attempts to change his mind.
Instead, it seems likely that he will use the budget to keep the promise he made when he launched SEISS, that the self-employed would be expected to pay back his generosity by losing their discount on National Insurance payments. He said this despite knowing that self-employed people are entitled to fewer benefits from National Insurance than employees taxed at source, including sick pay and unemployment support.
He has indicated that he will realise that threat on Thursday, further damaging the prospects of the freelance and self-employed sector, including, of course, large numbers of peripatetic music teachers and musicians with portfolio careers.
The Chancellor offered a pre-budget teaser to the arts sector on 1 March saying a further £408 million would be paid into arts and cultural sector funding, but yet again, this is targeted at museums, galleries and theatres and is unlikely to filter down to freelance artists.