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The cultural sector welcomed last week’s Spring Budget but, as Lara Carmona writes, not being able to leverage public investment at the scale needed is like having your best player benched indefinitely.

Panel discussion at Creative UK summit
A panel discussion as part the Creative UK summit held at BAFTA

Donna Ford

The day after a UK Government Budget always feels like the aftermath of a long-awaited Premiership League final. Months of anticipation. Thousands of hours of preparation. One wild frenzied moment on the edge of your seat, millions watching. Squeaky bum time. 

Here in the stands (aka, glued to devices), my Creative UK colleagues and I spent last Wednesday with hours on the phone, watching the replays, picking apart moment by moment. 

Well sports fans, the results are in. And it turns out the Spring Budget had some good news for the creative economy. We saw the tightening of a handful of fiscal measures that will stimulate growth in film, TV and visual effects. 

And with Theatre Tax Relief being made permanent, the live performance sector has clarity on a cliff edge that was fast looming. 

‘Of vital importance to national life’

But more than the headlines, hidden in the detail were moves to increase devolved power, to introduce greater flexibility in pension investment, and to stimulate regional growth – all very welcome.

Thousands of arts organisations have been clamouring for these actions which will have a positive knock-on effect on our sector. So, to see support for independent film baked in and touring productions referred to as of “vital importance to our national life” was cheering. Our team – and our fans - are being heard.

The Spring Budget 2024 affirmed that the cultural and creative Industries are a key player in our economy. But without a risk-taking strategy in place for next season, we’re in danger of scoring more own goals.

Driving forward transformative change

Combined, the cultural and creative industries stimulate massive growth in the UK economy - an estimated £126bn in GVA last year. They employ 2.5m people, outstripping so many other sectors. They underpin so much in the economy. 

And yet to our industries – music, advertising, architecture, fashion, theatre, museums and more - It often feel like small change. No one yet seems to fully grasp that we’re one team.

We go into a new season with a bit of hope. But there is so much more work to do to drive forward the transformative change that will really unlock our growth potential. There is little disagreement that we need radical interventions on how the levels and flows of funding come into and move across the creative economy. 

We have solid evidence about what works in innovative finance, and yet there is a major issue with access to finance for most creative organisations and businesses. That we’re not able to leverage public investment to trigger private investment at the scale we know is needed is like having your best player benched indefinitely.

Rising stars being sold abroad

The best football academy pipelines are the feature of great teams – and the culture team is no different. Early-stage interventions are in people, and ideas. 

Whenever Creative UK receives news of yet another UK-based organisation having to flog equity and IP elsewhere because they can’t raise sufficient development capital in the UK, it hurts. 

Like many teams, we are watching our best rising stars being sold too early to leagues in the US, China and Europe, relegating our team to the lower league. The Spring Budget moved us up the field. But we’re not there yet. 

We have yet to see a coherent financial plan that really understands how central the cultural and creative industries are to our economic prosperity, our national resilience and our place in the world. The next big money moment – whichever UK Government leads its direction – shouldn’t keep us in second division any longer. 

This is anything but a game.

Lara Carmona is Director of Policy and Engagement at Creative UK.
@WeAreCreativeUK | @LaraSee

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Headshot of Lara Carmona