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Jeremy Hunt's Spring Budget 2024 has unveiled a range of tax relief support and project funding for the cultural sector.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt
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Parliament TV

Arts leaders have welcomed “game-changing” measures announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his Spring Budget to permanently increase rates of cultural tax relief for theatres, orchestras, museums, and galleries.

Introduced as temporary measures to help support the cultural sector in 2021, rates of tax relief will be permanently set at 45 %/40% for theatres, museums, and galleries’ touring/non-touring productions and at 45%/40% for orchestras from 1 April 2025. 

Hunt said he wanted to "recognise the contribution of our creative industries and the tourism that comes from the orchestra, museums, galleries and theatres” and their "vital importance to our national life." The budget also reveals that the government plans to "consider the wider approach for funding cultural infrastructure" at its next spending review, likely to be after the general election.

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Darren Henley, CEO of Arts Council England, welcomed the news, posting on X: “Uplifted rates of tax reliefs for orchestras /museums /galleries /theatres are now made permanent. This vital support allows creativity to flourish. Grateful to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and DCMS Secretary of State Lucy Frazer.”

Meanwhile, Producer Sonia Friedman said she was “delighted” that the government had recognised the "seismic importance" of fixing Theatre Tax Relief at a higher level than planned. 

"This provides a vital and game-changing contribution to the financing and production of UK theatre," she said.

The decision was one of a handful of measures in the Spring Budget aimed at directly supporting the arts sector. Hunt also revealed that the National Theatre in London would be receiving £26.4m for “maintenance and repairs". 

The money will be used to replace end-of-life theatre systems, fund repairs to the Olivier theatre scenery lift and develop solutions for refurbishing the theatre’s drum revolve system.

It will also support the creation of a National Theatre Skills Centre, which will provide training opportunities for more than 5,000 people each year.

Artistic Director of the National Theatre Rufus Norris and Executive Director Kate Varah said they were ”immensely grateful”.

”Along with the crucial extension of Theatre Tax Relief, this is a huge boost to the future vitality of British theatre,” they said.

Levelling up

Outside of London, top-up capital funding of £1.6m was unveiled for Theatr Clwyd in Mold, Wales. The venue is undergoing a major renovation backed by the Welsh Government, Flintshire County Council and Arts Council Wales and is due to reopen in 2025.

Theatr Clwyd said the investment was “a significant closing step in completing this vital project".

In Scotland, the government will award £10m to level up cultural investment in Perth and Dunfermline, two cities previously left out of the initiative, while the West Midlands Combined Authority will get £10m in new funding to support "culture and heritage projects" alongside £5m to "drive inward investment in the region".

The budget also confirmed the allocation of £100m of levelling-up funding for culture projects, subject to business cases, with grants for British Library North in Leeds, the National Railway Museum in York, and National Museums Liverpool.

There was good news for the broader sector as Hunt also cut National Insurance from 10% down to 8%, a move that Creative UK chief Caroline Norbury said would be “welcome for creative freelancers” as the cost-of-living crisis continues.

Creative industries

Norbury also praised a package of support for the UK's screen sector, with eligible production studios in England able to receive a 40% relief on their gross business rates until 2034 and additional tax relief for visual effects with an 80% cap removed, which she said “will make a real difference when it comes to incentivising UK production".

She added that she was “delighted” to see the government introduce a new tax credit at a rate of 53% for UK independent films with a budget of less than £15m, but added that those in the creative and cultural industries "must keep pushing" for "strategic and substantial" interventions equivalent to those announced in other growth sectors such as energy and digital tech.

“For us, this means committing to further investment to develop creative content and IP. It also means delivering the £270m Arts Premium, as promised in the Conservative Party Manifesto in 2019, and committing to a full review of the investment landscape, which will help catalyse more private finance into the sector," said Norbury.

Local authorities

While the Chancellor’s measures for the arts sector and creative industries have been widely endorsed, some criticised a lack of support for local authorities, many of which are currently facing unprecedented levels of debt resulting in deep cuts to arts funding as they seek to prioritise core services.

Shaun Davies, Chair of the Local Government Association, said it was "disappointing" that no measures were announced to "adequately fund the local services people rely on every day."

"Councils continue to transform services but, given that core spending power in 2024/25 has been cut by 23.3% in real terms compared to 2010/11, it is unsustainable to expect them to keep doing more for less in the face of unprecedented cost and demand pressures," he said.

Isobel Hunter, Chief Executive of Libraries Connected, also said she was "deeply disappointed" that Hunt did not take the opportunity to provide "the urgent funding that local authorities - which are responsible for public libraries - so desperately need".

"While elements of the budget, such as the £100m of Levelling Up funding for cultural projects, may be good news for some library services, what is really needed is fair long-term funding for local government.

"With so many councils now facing financial crisis, libraries are acutely vulnerable to cuts and closures - despite being a statutory service. The future of our public library network is increasingly uncertain, and this budget has done nothing to address that." 

Reductions in local authority arts spending also mean “the workforce bears the brunt of cuts through job losses, shuttered venues and strained public services”, said Equity’s General Secretary, Paul W Fleming.
 
“Those who fall through the gaps can no longer rely on a safety net – as the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor pushes Equity members into financial hardship or out of the industry.” 
 
“Our members are clear; they want to see a pay rise, not tax cuts which favour the wealthy at the expense of the public good. The government should invest available funds in a roadmap to restore the arts in every part of the UK.”

Author(s): 
A headshot of Mary Stone

Comments

Great news for film, TV, orchestras and museums and galleries, but what about music venues and artists, and festivals who have been hit hard by the pandemic, cost of living crisis and inflation? Where is their support?