Autumn Statement could have done more for the creative industries

 9 December 2013

The 2013 Autumn Statement from George Osborne was partly surprising in that it contained some specific initiatives to improve growth in the creative industries. One point stood out in particular – the promise to open a consultation on tax relief for commercial theatres and those invested in touring and producing new works.

"Through our Creative Employment Programme we’ve seen a real surge in creative businesses taking on apprentices."

This is a timely support measure. I’ve worked on research with Nesta and Arts Council England that firstly shows the research and development capacities of subsidised theatre, and secondly show how theatre workers often transfer to other roles within the creative industries and the wider economy.

The additional support then should reap its own artistic and economic benefits in the long term, and provide a much needed impetus for regional theatre.

Not far enough for the creative industries?

The consultation on theatre, and other measures based around supporting areas like film and animation, are undeniably positive, but arguably don’t go far enough. The Coalition government still hasn’t got a cohesive approach to how it will enable the ecosystem of the creative industries and the arts to lead at the forefront of an economic recovery. In comparison, the government has progressed further in areas which perhaps look more disparate, like the ‘Information Economy’ sector.

A better approach would be to find a way to integrate these individual policies into a consistent narrative of support for the sector. The government should be able to recognise and understand how tax breaks for theatre might impact the wider creative industries, and create policy that amounts to a long-term strategy of support, rather than through one-off initiatives.

Hopefully the ongoing work of the Creative Industries Council can help to reflect this, although we’re now almost four years into the Coalition administration without an overall strategy being created.

Supporting the next generation into work

There were two other reasons to be optimistic over the Autumn Statement:

  • The commitment to create an additional 20,000 higher apprenticeships.
    Through our Creative Employment Programme we’ve seen a real surge in creative businesses taking on apprentices. If some of these apprenticeships could be focused on industries like music, theatre or the arts, the likelihood is that the learners would go onto successful careers.
  • The abolition of National Insurance Contributions for employers taking on young people who earn under a certain amount.
    This should also help businesses make the decision to give less experienced workers a chance in their business. We’ve centred the Building a Creative Nation campaign around encouraging businesses to get 50,000 young people into work in 1,000 days, so anything the government is doing to make this process cheaper and more pain-free for businesses has to be encouraged.

Overall, I don’t think this Autumn Statement went as far as it could have in support of the creative industries. But it’s still positive that it has stayed on the agenda through individual initiatives.

You can follow more of our thoughts and research into these areas on @CCBlueprint

Read the full 2013 Autumn Statement

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