Unless someone tells me otherwise, it seems that the biggest issue for many freelancers arising from the cost-of-living crisis is the question of rising fuel costs – and this is likely to hit workers in film and TV particularly hard because of the fact that they need to do a daily commute to far-flung locations, often for months on end.
Anyone who has been following all of the posts on here about inflation (or more to the point, all of the non-trivial headlines from most news outlets in recent months) will be aware of the tough economic climate out there, and the impact that it is having on the cost of living and the ability of wages to keep pace.
Yesterday’s headlines were all about forecasts being revised with pessimism. The UK’s economic growth and inflation forecasts were particularly gloomy – inflation is expected to reach (!) double figures and the good news [sic] is that it will fall to only 4.7% by the end of 2023. Growth is expected to go into negative figures in Q4 of this yer.
There’s also the little matter of fuel costs – topping £100 to fill up an average family car for the first time.
The average cost of filling a typical family car with petrol has exceeded £100 for the first time.
Figures from data firm Experian Catalist show the average price of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts reached a record 182.3p on Wednesday pic.twitter.com/86vrt4nwX6
— PA Media (@PA) June 9, 2022
This is particularly concerning for many of Bectu’s freelance members – particularly those who work on long engagements in film and TV drama. As mentioned on this site a few months ago, the commute is a particularly thorny issue.
Taking London as an example, the main workplaces (the studios) are spread around the M25 and beyond (from Shinfield and Bray which are well away from central London, through to Three Mills in the east, Longcross, Shepperton, and Pinewood in the west, and Leavesden, Elstree, and the proposed production behemoth in Broxbourne to the north.
People are expected to arrive at these locations at times that make the public transport option very difficult or even impossible. These workers can’t optimise where they live for their workplace, and as a result, the average commute is well over an hour each way – and often in a single-occupant car.
The GMB union are currently campaigning to have mileage allowances increased as NHS staff are now subsidising their employers. Before the most recent increase, Fleet News was reporting that HMRC were increasing advisory fuel rates by up to 3p from 1st January.
This is an issue that will be high on our agenda whenever we engage with HMRC because – at the moment – this is a fast-rising cost of doing business for freelancers.