As the date of the UK General Election nears, Nothing in the Rulebook has sifted through the manifestos of the Labour and Conservative parties to decipher exactly what each is offering in terms of support for the arts and creative industries in the UK.
It is important to note that, over the past six years, £42.8 million has been cut from Britain’s Arts Councils by the incumbent Conservative (and Con-Dem coalition) governments. Cuts to local government have also meant library closures and the end of creative arts evening classes. For many people, the increasingly precarious, time-consuming and low-paid nature of work has also restricted access to the arts, and made it ever more difficult for aspiring creatives to pursue their passion.
Under a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government, this seems set to change. The Labour Party’s manifesto promises to provide a £1 billion culture fund and to end cuts to local authority budget funding if it wins the general election on 8th June.
Labour said it would introduce the fund in order to “upgrade our existing cultural and creative infrastructure to be ready for the digital age”.
The fund would also invest in creative clusters across the country, designed to boost economic growth through culture.
It would be administered through Arts Council England over a period of five years, and is described by Labour as “among the biggest arts infrastructure funds ever”.
Labour has also promised to end local authority budget cuts, which have resulted in widespread cuts to the arts nationwide.
Stopping this has been identified by leading cultural bodies as a key area for the sector to lobby the new government.
The manifesto also includes the introduction of a £160 million pupil premium for the arts, which would allow schools to invest in creative projects.
The idea was first mooted by party leader Jeremy Corbyn last year, and comes alongside manifesto promises to “put creativity back at the heart of the curriculum” and review the English Baccalaureate.
Pledges include strengthening the pipeline of creative talent, with measures such as a creative careers advice campaign in schools to demonstrate the range of opportunities available and the skills required “from the tech sector to theatre production”.
The manifesto also mentions fair pay for those working in the arts, claiming: ‘too often the culture of low or no pay means it isn’t an option for those without well-off families to support them.’ Labour will work with trade unions and employers to agree sector-specific advice and guidelines on pay and employment standards, making ‘the sector more accessible to all’.
“We will improve diversity on and off screen, working with the film industry and public service and commercial broadcasters to find rapid solutions to improve diversity,” it added.
Labour’s manifesto also suggests extending the business rates relief scheme for pubs to small venues, in a bid to protect them, as well as implementing the agent of change principle across the country – a measure already pledged for London by mayor Sadiq Khan.
In addition, Labour has also announced it will maintain free entry to museums, claiming Conservative cuts to arts funding and local authorities have created a tough financial climate for museums, with some closing or reducing their services, and others starting to charge entry fees.
The party has also pledged to address the ‘value gap’ between producers of creative content and the digital services that profit from its use. The manifesto states: ‘We will work with all sides to review the way that innovators and artists are rewarded for their work in the digital age.’
A portion of the manifesto also focuses on making music venues more resilient, with Labour aiming to support the music industry’s infrastructure. There will be a review extending the £1,000 pub relief business rates scheme to small music venues, while Labour will introduce an ‘agent of change’ principle in planning law, to ensure that new housing developments can coexist with existing music venues.
The party has also pledged to support and protect one of the UK’s most valued public institutions: the BBC.
That the Labour Party has delivered a manifesto so positively supportive of the arts and creative industries is perhaps no surprise – as the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has continually backed the sector for years, and made it a key part of his leadership campaign in 2015.