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Northern creative industry could “rebalance” UK economy


The North of England’s strength in the creative sector could play a major role in rebalancing the UK economy, that’s according to a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which will be launched in Manchester tomorrow.

The think tank will argue that too much money on culture and arts is spent in London, rather than the “creative centres” that exist across the UK and particularly in the North of England.

The regional event at The Sharp Project will focus specifically on the role  of the North West in helping to rebalance the economy, but the report also looks at the advertising, software, games and e-learning sectors in Leeds and Sheffield.

Will Straw Will Straw

“If the Government wants to ensure that the ‘global race’ to which it refers is a ‘race to the top’ then it should do everything that it can to support growth sectors with a clear comparative advantage and a rapid expansion in high skilled jobs all around the country. At a time when many jobs in the UK – particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors – are low-skilled, low-productivity and low-paid, the creative industries are notably bucking the trend. Because the sector is rich in good jobs, it is an important test case for whether Britain can win a global ‘race to the top’,” explained Will Straw, IPPR associate director.

“Creative clusters are emerging in every region of the country and especially in the North West – they could hold the key to rebalancing the UK economy. These creative centres are helping deliver a more dynamic and competitive economy overall but they have not been given as much support as London. We must ensure that scarce government resources are more evenly distributed and that new sources of funding are freed up.”

According to the IPPR, creative industries show that they are ahead of the service sector when it comes to exports. Creative industry exports grew by 16.1% from 2009 to 2011, while the services sector was up just 11.5%. As a whole, growth within the creative industry was nearly 6 times the average in 2012.

However, Straw will tell delegates at the launch event at The Sharp Project that Government spending on culture and arts is very much skewed towards the capital. More than 40% of all DCMS arts and Arts Council England funding goes to London. The BBC spends 54.2% of its programming budget in London, and it’s committed to reducing this to just 50% by 2016.

ippr ipprThe IPPR states that Londoners have £72 per person spent on the creative industries, that’s compared to £24 in the rest of England.

“Manchester and Liverpool are economic powerhouses, just waiting to boom. We have the skills, we have the enterprise but rarely do we get our fair share of resources. We can’t return Britain to economic growth just by relying on the London housing market. The North West’s ‘modern markers’ are on the march, but they need proper backing,” added Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central.

The report will argue for a new approach to the UK creative industries, including:

More Government focus on supporting creative clusters outside of London and a more equitable distribution of Arts Council funding throughout the country;

Less restrictive tax relief, which works to support talent development, innovation and content production;

Skills spending should include the delegation of a proportion of funding for employer-led programmes to Local Enterprise Partnerships to help employers in the regions;

The development of a British Investment Bank to support longer-term investment in creative businesses, particularly for small businesses in the nations and regions.

Public sector broadcasters, including the BBC should provide further ‘venture capital for creativity’ in the wider production sector through their investment and commissioning policies.

You can read the full report here. The regional launch takes place on Thursday at The Sharp Project in Manchester.

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