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New ‘T-level’ qualifications will be introduced from 2019, with a Creative and Design strand preparing young people for roles including arts producer and graphic designer.

Photo of live music
It is unclear whether a business rate discount for pubs will apply to live music venues

An additional £435m in business rate support, including a £300m fund for local authorities to allocate discretionary relief, was announced in the Spring Budget yesterday.

The Chancellor also announced the introduction of ‘T levels’, technical qualifications to mirror the A level, and a series of changes to National Insurance contributions for the self-employed.

“We would encourage local authorities to think strategically about the type of businesses that might benefit through the £300m discretionary relief fund,” John Kampfner, Chief Executive of the Creative Industries Federation (CIF), said.

“Evidence shows that modest support for creative organisations can encourage creative clusters and drive growth across the country.”

Commercial focus

Alongside the new relief fund, the Chancellor pledged that no businesses that lose their small business rate relief next year will see their bills increase by more than £50 a month, and pubs with a rateable value of under £100k will receive a £1k business rate discount. He also made a commitment to wider reform of business rates before the next revaluation.

These changes will mostly affect commercial venues: charities have an automatic 80% exemption on business rates, with the remaining 20% applied at the discretion of the billing authority. Commercial operators such as Qdos Entertainment urged the Government to re-think the increase, saying regional theatres would be “disproportionately impacted” by the new rates and some may become “unviable”.

UK Music Chief Executive Jo Dipple welcomed the discretionary relief fund and plans to reform business rates, but added: “The Government must set out the exact formula for this relief and the timeframe for rate reform at the earliest opportunity to give confidence to music businesses affected by rate increases.

“A discount for pubs is potentially good news, but it is unclear as to whether this will apply to music venues too. We seek assurances from the Government that this will indeed help out the hardest-hit music venues.”


The Chancellor also announced the introduction of T levels from 2019-20, which will replace around 13,000 post-16 qualifications with 15 “routes” into employment. One of these will be ‘Creative and Design’, which is intended to prepare students for roles including arts producer, graphic designer, and audio-visual technician.

The plans are part of a £500m investment in education for 16 to 19 year olds, and will see the Government increase the number of programme hours of training for young people on technical routes and introduce further education maintenance loans.

Kampfner said: “The budget rightly recognised the need for an education system fit for the economic challenges of the 21st century but the devil will be in the detail of the new T levels.

“This new qualification needs to be considered in the context of the skills shortages in the creative sector and the potential for growth in the creative industries.”

National Insurance

In addition, the Chancellor announced reforms to National Insurance contributions paid by the self-employed and a small increase to the personal tax allowance.

The CIF emphasised the need to analyse the tax changes to ensure they are truly fair and do not damage growth.

“We are concerned about the changes to national insurance contributions because the creative industries have a higher proportion of self-employed than other sectors and many of them are not highly paid,” Kampfner added.

R&D tax review

A further announcement about a Research and Development (R&D) tax review, referencing the Industrial Strategy – which cabinet ministers promised to include creative industries “at the heart” of – was also met with concern by Nesta for having a narrow definition.

Hasan Bakhshi, Senior Director Creative Economy and Data Analytics, said: “Unfortunately, official definitions of R&D used today by the UK Government continue to exclude the arts, humanities and social sciences. Consequently, much R&D in the creative industries is not recognised and does not qualify for targeted R&D support.”

“As the Government seeks to increase the UK’s R&D investment,” he continued, “it should ensure its R&D definitions do not neglect the very areas where the UK has international strengths, like the creative industries.”