The second in our Election series Bethany looks at the four main parties policies on Art and Culture and talks about the impact it could have on young people gaining work in the industry. Want to have your say? If you’re interested in writing for ThisIsIt! drop Izzy an email for the chance to get your views out there.
With election fever sweeping the nation, party leaders have come out in force making promises and commitments that they’re the party to back in the upcoming vote. Whilst politicians are busy whispering sweet nothings into the ears of potential voters, what does this mean for the creative industries and young people within the creative industries? The four main parties all have a commitment to Arts and Culture in their manifestos. Whilst Arts and Culture are not the most headline grabbing of polices the industry is worth 6% of the UK GDP and is one of the fastest growing economies. This is something governments need to support if they want it to stay that way.
So let’s take a look at the four main parties’ policies:
The Conservatives promise to maintain tax reliefs for the creative industries and possibly extend them. They also support free access to museums and galleries and support plans for a great exhibition in the north and a new concert hall in London. The Tories also aim to improve free Wi-Fi and e-book access. I know what you’re thinking “yeah but what does it mean?” Well, whilst the Tories have pledged 78 million to The Factory in Manchester, they have no plans to restore 1.658m in cuts for the Arts in England as a whole. The original cuts were an attempt at reducing the deficit but actually only accounted for less than a quarter of a percent of the deficit. This made a huge impact on the industry but had very little effect on the deficit.
The Tories have also promised 3 million more apprenticeships by 2020, so hopefully that will transfer into a stronger apprenticeship programme within the creative industries. Although there is no commitment to increasing the apprenticeship wage and with plans to stop housing benefit for 18- 21 year olds improving your prospects with an apprenticeship may have to be sacrificed for you know – paying your rent! Let’s face it £2.78 an hour really won’t get you very far.
With Labour focusing on Arts and Culture in education Ed Milliband’s party has promised that schools can only gain an Outstanding in Ofsted inspections if their Arts and Culture provision is outstanding. Labour has also promised government backed apprenticeships for art institutions instead of unpaid internships. Museums and galleries will remain free to enter.
However, like the Conservatives, Labour has not promised to reverse Arts funding cuts that the Tories have made and also haven’t created a provision for schools to achieve or develop this outstanding cultural learning. When giving a speech at Battersea Arts centre Mr Milliband did admit that Arts and Culture were soft targets for local authorities to take funding from, something he also didn’t pledge to protect. With a promise to raise the minimum wage to £8 and guaranteed jobs for under 25s who have been unemployed for over a year, this is a welcoming change for young low paid workers. Whilst Labour has been more vocal about their polices in a bid to woo the Arts sector, one is left wondering if Labours promises are achievable without the financial support to implement them.
The Lib Dems has made their Arts’ policy a part of building a sustainable economy. Again with a promise of more apprenticeships and free entry to museums and galleries, both of which would also get more autonomy. There is a strong commitment to support small businesses and cultural tourism. The Lib Dems also want to promote social based “prescribing” of Arts in healthcare. The Lib Dems’ promises sound good but there has been no ball park figure of investment into the creative industries to achieve these goals and with a healthcare system stretched at financial breaking point, the Arts in healthcare has to be robustly cost effective.
Arts and Culture have not been the highest on UKIPs agenda. One specific policy is to scrap the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and to include their responsibilities into other departments. Whist they have a section devoted to heritage, UKIP focus more on education for British history in school than protection of cultural venues. They would support Arts projects for the regeneration of seaside towns. Whilst they are offering no tuition fees for university courses, these courses appear to be all STEM subjects. The message is UKIP has little or no regards for the Arts and their value in society. They, like the Tories will also raise the personal tax allowance.
The Arts is about asking questions: questions of ourselves, our society and of the world around us.
So there it is, the potential future of the Arts. Whilst I am still undecided in my vote, I’m sure of one thing, Arts and Culture are integral to our society and economy. With falling provision and uptake for the Arts in schools, local authority cuts to support projects at grassroots levels and no real ball park figures of funding to support these policies, developing the next generation of creative producers is going to be a challenging endeavour. The need for a mixed approach between Entry Level job creation and education is a hard balance to strike. The Arts is about asking questions: questions of ourselves, our society and of the world around us. I hope the next five years preserve and protect this great industry in order for us to keep asking questions.
Bethany is a Creative Apprentice at Lancashire County Council. Her interests include literature, theatre and film. In her spare time she is often volunteering with young people or trying to improve her writing skills. She loves all things current affairs and is a passionate supporter of the Creative Apprenticeship programme.