Dale sound engineer misses out on crucial government support
A SELF-EMPLOYED sound engineer from Teesdale has described the difficulties being faced by those in the entertainment industry during the coronavirus lockdown.
Tom Stanier will be known to many for his stint as technical manager and operating the stage equipment at The Witham, in Barnard Castle, but for the past 18 months he has been self-employed operating sound equipment around the world.
He was responsible for mixing the BBC Young Folk Awards last year and toured Scotland, England, Germany and Russia with Anglo-Irish band Flook. Now, however, work has dried up and he had hoped government support would help him through the lockdown. Mr Stanier said: “A sense of weight was lifted off my shoulders when I heard the chancellor was making an announcement for a self-employed support package, but in the hours after the announcement, as the eligibility for the support sank in, that feeling turned into hopelessness.
“Despite not having received PAYE income for over 18 months, I quickly realised I would not benefit from the support package due to its very specific criteria.”
The problem is compounded because he used most of his cash to invest in new equipment resulting in him submitting a loss on his last tax assessment.
Although feeling let down, Mr Stanier commended the Government for its comprehensive roll out of support for the UK workforce.
Mr Stanier said: “Unfortunately tens of thousands of people will fall through the gaps without any support. I’m certainly not an anomaly – a huge proportion of self-employed people who started their business in parallel with a salaried job, and every self-employed person in the UK who started their business in this current tax year will fall through this same gap as I have.
“I realise that a support package for the self-employed was potentially a logistical nightmare, but I believe the slightest change to the criteria would help thousands of people in my position, without opening up the scheme for ‘heavy abuse’ as the chancellor suggested.
“I personally think that if you were registered for self-assessment with HMRC before the first announcement regarding Covid-19, then you should be able to submit your 19/20 accounts to be included in the 80 per cent average of the last three years.”
Fortunately, Mr Stanier received some good news last week when he received a small grant from the charity Help Musicians.
Mr Stanier said: “It’s a huge help at the moment, and it’s endearing to see a charity trying its very best to help those in need of it. Even though it’s a relatively small amount in the grander scheme of things, it pays our mortgage for a month.
“The music industry typically lives a hand-to-mouth existence with moderate incomes and fairly high expenses. If it wasn’t a hard-financial existence to begin with, a global pandemic and worldwide bans on large public gatherings possibly for many months ahead meansit will be now. It’s a dire situation for an industry almost entirely based upon a gathering of ticket buying public. For myself, we have enough in savings to support ourselves financially for the next couple of months, but my next job isn’t until late July. With how the situation is progressing, the few bits of festival gigs I do have in July are likely to be cancelled. I’ve had some August bookings cancelled already.
“Within the space of a week, I lost about 70 per cent of my projected income in my diary.”