UK budget: industry reactions

Mar 5, 2021
Sky’s Breeders is one of the many productions which have been able to continue filming thanks to the £500 million Film and TV Production Restart Scheme

Industry associations including the GBCT, BECTU, the BFI, Directors UK, and ScreenSkills react to the annual budget announcements which included an extension of the COVID insurance scheme from April to the end of December. The £500 million Film and TV Production Restart Scheme guarantees productions are financially supported in the event of losses caused by COVID.

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak also announced an extension of the Coronavirus Job Support Scheme to September 2021 across the UK and an extension of the UK-wide Self Employment Income Support scheme to September 2021, with 600,000 more people who filed a tax return in 2019-20 now able to claim for the first time.

When the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme was launched in October 2020 it was expected the iniative would support over 40,000 jobs across one of the country’s leading creative sectors by ensuring planned productions can proceed after a period of disruption due to the pandemic. Productions could receive compensation for future COVID-related losses including filming delays from illness amongst the cast and crew.

“Our world-leading film and TV industry supports tens of thousands of jobs and is hugely important to the UK’s cultural life,” Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said. “That’s why as part of our Plan for Jobs we are doing everything possible to help protect the jobs of the talented professionals who work in the sector. This targeted scheme will help to fill the gap created by the lack of available insurance, and help get our world renowned film and tv industry back up and running.”

In February it was revealed that more than 160 productions are benefiting from government-backed scheme to protect against COVID-related losses and the scheme had protected almost 20,000 jobs across UK film and TV. Feature film Boxing Day and Sky’s Breeders are just two of the many projects which have been able to continue filming.



According to BECTU, the furlough extension and the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme are the only pieces of good news in what was a largely disappointing budget for workers in the creative industries.

Responding to the Chancellor’s failure to address the gaps in SEISS, Head of BECTU Philippa Childs said: “The Chancellor’s promise to do “whatever it takes” to support people and businesses rings hollow for the many thousands of freelancers in the creative industries who are yet to receive a penny from SEISS.

“The inclusion of 2019/20 newly self-employed will be a relief for some, but the government has grossly exaggerated the difference it will make. The changes do nothing to address the £50k cliff edge, fails to address the cut-off dates for accessing the schemes and in a final insult – the scheme will be winding up two months before the end of the furlough scheme.”

Responding to the extension of the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme, Childs said: “The Film and TV Production Restart Scheme is government intervention at its best and its extension will be welcomed across the industry. The scheme has kept thousands of people in work and allowed Bectu members working in the industry to create much-needed entertainment at a time when the country has needed it the most.

“Theatres and live events require the same support but have yet again been left out in the cold. The arts industry risks losing millions if they are hit with closures or delays this summer, which is exactly what happened in December. It’s not too late to announce a scheme, but the Chancellor needs to act fast or he risks an avoidable delay to the planned reopening of the arts this summer.”


Ben Roberts, BFI Chief Executive said: “We welcome the Government’s support today with further funding through the Culture Recovery Fund available for independent cinemas as well as the extension to the Restart Scheme for film and television production until the end of December. Independent cinemas bring benefits to communities in our cities, towns and rural areas, are often the only form of culture and entertainment, and provide thousands of jobs across the country. The Government’s Film & TV Production Restart Scheme has already supported more than 200 productions to get back up and running, generating more than 24,000 jobs and helping the industry to generate a significant £1.19 billion uplift in spend in the final months of last year.  The new flexi-job apprenticeships will offer the next generation routes into thriving industries such as our screen industries.”


The extension of support for the self-employed is welcomed. But further and extra support for the arts is still very much needed.


Gaps in Support

Directors UK welcomes the Chancellor extending the Government’s current COVID-19 support schemes and including the newly self-employed. But this does not go far enough to address the remaining gaps in the SEISS. The lack of recognition for the financial concerns of freelancers and the self-employed will be distressing and damaging for those affected, including many in the creative sector. We will continue to seek solutions and support for our members who still fall through the gaps.

Extension of Film and TV Production Restart Scheme

Directors UK welcomes the extension of the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme, having been an advocate of this support from the start of the COVID crisis. We’re pleased that our members and the creative sector can continue to work through the remainder of the pandemic, and its longer-term impact, and provide world-class entertainment for everyone to enjoy.

Apprenticeship Levy

Directors UK is pleased to see the Chancellor answer our call to make the Apprenticeship Levy more flexible to reflect the fluid nature of working patterns in the creative industries. By allowing apprentices to work for a number of different employers in the same sector, the creative industries can now make real use of levy funds that in previous years have gone untapped, and feed that money directly back into training new talent in meaningful ways.


ScreenSkills welcomes the Treasury’s announcement that it will introduce a new flexible programme that should enable more apprenticeships in the screen industries. Plans announced in the budget will enable people to work for a number of different employers in the same sector.  The move responds to ScreenSkills’ longstanding calls for greater flexibilities in the apprenticeship system and builds on the apprenticeship programme ScreenSkills has already announced with Warner Bros. and Netflix.

Following on from the Prime Minister’s skills speech in September, the Chancellor’s new “flexi-job” apprenticeship programme will link apprentices to an agency instead of a single employer, meaning they will be able to develop their skills by taking on different jobs with multiple employers in one sector.

Seetha Kumar, ScreenSkills CEO, said: “We welcome the new flexi-job apprenticeship which will enable suitable industry bodies to act as sector agencies. This will make it easier for smaller companies in particular to take on apprentices in the thriving screen industries. ScreenSkills is already planning an innovative programme along very similar lines, supported by DCMS, with important industry partners. We look forward to working with government on making this proposal work to support our world-renowned film, television, visual effects, animation and games industries.”

ScreenSkills intends to bid for funding from a new £7 million fund to create new agencies to manage the new flexi-job apprenticeships which are expected to start in January 2022. There will also be increased cash incentives for firms taking on apprenticeships. Currently employers receive a cash incentive of £2,000 for each apprentice they hire aged 16-24, and £1,500 for those over the age of 25. From 1 April, the incentive scheme will be simplified and made more generous with a £3,000 payment per hire, regardless of the apprentice’s age. The scheme will also be extended for an extra six months to the end of September.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Our Plan for Jobs has spread opportunity and hope throughout the crisis – helping people back into work and harnessing their talents for the future. We know there’s more to do and it’s vital this continues throughout the next stage of our recovery, which is why I’m boosting support for these programmes, helping jobseekers and employers alike.”

Research shows that the appetite for apprenticeships and work-based learning is rising with 70 percent of employers saying they believe these programmes will be vital to their organisation’s recovery. The new measures will also include £126 million of new funding for 40,000 more traineeships.  ScreenSkills will continue to advocate for more radical reforms on the Apprenticeship Levy, while regarding today’s announcement as a constructive step towards making the apprenticeship system work more effectively.

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