Hammond’s Autumn Statement: a “misunderstanding” of art and science

This week’s Autumn Statement favoured science over culture by billions of pounds – we hear from people within the creative industries about why the Government’s attitude towards both sectors needs to be reassessed.

Chancellor Philip Hammond, courtesy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Chancellor Philip Hammond, courtesy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his Autumn Statement this week, and while he has prioritised digital innovation, tech and science, attention towards the creative and arts industries was lacking in his speech.

In his follow-up report, he did pledge £10 million towards cultural and heritage projects across the UK – but this pales in comparison to the £4.7bn which will go towards research and development in science and innovation as part of a £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund, and the £1bn for 5G broadband trials and faster internet connections.

“Focusing narrowly on science and tech”

While investment in tech innovation and the digital sector will no doubt benefit creative businesses too, industry bodies have criticised the chancellor for focusing too heavily on science and tech and not taking advantage of the UK economy’s fastest-growing sector.

“The Government risks failing to capitalise on the potential of the wider creative industries… by appearing to focus support for innovation and R&D narrowly on science and tech,” says Creative Industries Federation chief executive John Kampfner. “We can deliver so much more if we are made a priority sector in the Government’s thinking.”

Of the £10 million promised to art and culture, £7.6 million will go towards restoring South Yorkshire’s Wentworth Woodhouse, and £2.6 million reserved for developing art complexes in Southampton and Plymouth, leaving £850,000 for cultural education.

“A fundamental misunderstanding” of culture and science

Compared to the £4.7bn promised to development in science, £850,000 doesn’t seem like much. The error made by the Government is that creativity and science are not seen as inextricably linked, says product designer Sebastian Conran.

“Maybe there is a fundamental misunderstanding with both the cultural and scientific sectors,” he says. “Creativity is something they both share and digital technology has made a huge impact on culture – but raw tech is an unappetising meal which needs expert designers to prepare it so it is delicious and appealing.”

Design ensures that sophisticated tech is “emotionally engaged and ready for human consumption”, Conran says – so creativity and tech should be treated as complementary to each other.

Tax relief for museums is “good news”

Hammond has placed some emphasis on cultural enrichment – he has promised to help museums out by extending tax relief to include permanent as well as temporary exhibitions, from April 2017 – making it easier for museums to put on exhibitions and keep them running.

Mike Hayes, partner at creative industries’ accountancy firm Kingston Smith, says that while the Autumn Statement was “fairly light on announcements for the creative industries”, Museums and Galleries Tax relief was one of the “exceptions”. This will run until 2022, and relief will be at 25% of expenditure for touring exhibitions, and 20% for permanent ones.

“This is good news,” Hayes says. “There are already generous tax credits for film, high end TV, animation, video games, orchestras and theatres, and the Chancellor may have felt that they are enough for now, while he focuses on infrastructure and productivity.”

Scope of R&D funding should be “widened”

Kampfner at the Creative Industries Federation adds that there is value in the Government’s plans to provide £1.8bn funding for local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), which could help to create more jobs in the creative sector in local areas – if, of course, local authorities decide to distribute their money towards art and culture.

Hayes adds that the Government’s promise to deliver £2bn of funding for R&D in universities and businesses by 2021 could also benefit creativity – but only if “the scope is widened”. The Government has made it clear this will back scientific research and the development of tech, such as robotics, artificial intelligence and industrial biotechnology, but “details are sparse” on any other use of the funding, says Hayes.

People are both “emotional and rational”

With less than £1 million devoted to a Royal Society of the Arts scheme that aims to promote cultural education in schools, compared to the billions going into science and tech, the overarching opinion is that the potential of the creative sector needs to be realised by Government and joined together with science as part of the same entity.

The Government needs to look to nurturing the public’s “emotional and rational” – creative and scientific – sides, says Conran, and see beyond “data-driven evidence”, while Kampfner says more emphasis should be placed on education, skills, training and apprenticeships.

Read the full Autumn Statement report here.

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  • Richard McConnell November 27, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    The main problem is that nearly everyone in government and opposition went to public (private) schools and universities where creative arts and design are regarded as mildly amusing but unimportant peripheries to modern life.
    The fact that these are actually some Britain’s most successful industries internationally, where we actually do lead the world, has never sunk through to those in power. This is the fault of the absurd British education system which devalues art and design to a lower class activity.
    Successive governments have forced the once-independent art school system to follow the entirely inappropriate “Oxbridge”
    model of higher education. Most of today’s
    leading designers came through the older much more liberal system of art education.

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