Shadow culture secretary condemns government’s “complacency” with creative industries

Labour has offered a future vision for creatives in the form of a five-step “creative compact” plan, countering culture secretary Lucy Frazer’s Sector Vision.

Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell has suggested that the conservative government’s complacency over the last decade has left the creative sector at a disadvantage, before laying out Labour’s plans to drive growth across the creative industries.

Powell’s speech took place today (3 March) as part of the Creative UK’s Creative Coalition Festival 2023. It follows a speech given earlier this week by Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer.

Creative industries have been “taken for granted”

“The cross-party House of Lords Communications Committee warned the government about complacency and that they’ve long taken the creative industries for granted”, says Powell. She then gave examples of how it has been “an afterthought in government rather that at the forefront of their plans for growth”, as the creative sector was not mentioned in the autumn budget as a key area for growth, nor in the levelling up white paper, according to Powell.

Comparing this to what Labour has done for the sector, she claimed that the last Labour government’s policies and investment “laid the foundation stones for the subsequent growth in the creative sectors”, as well as “breathing new life into the creative education system”.

Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell

Powell went on to outline some of the threats that creative industries are facing. She mentioned the narrowing of the curriculum which has seen creative subjects “squeezed out”, the skills crisis resulting in “a high number of unfilled vacancies”, and changes to theatre’s tax relief, affecting cultural institutions already struggling post-covid.

Labour’s “creative compact” sector plan

Labour’s vision for the creative sector was set out through a five step “creative compact” plan.

With the intention of putting the sector at the centre of Labour’s growth mission, Powell mentioned design and technology specifically. She plans to “ensure the whole of government works with the creative industries particularly at the nexus of creative design and technology where there is huge potential” as well as rebooting the Creative Industries Council, which is engaged with the export of creative UK business and attracting inward investment.

Creative education also appears to be a priority for Labour, although Powell admitted that many schools are not able to offer “a balanced curriculum” because they are measured by results in core academic subjects like English and Maths. While the government can work to improve educational skills, Powell called for the industry to improve access and social mobility by helping to provide “proper pathways for those who can’t rely on the bank of mum and dad to get them going”.

What will happen to digital?

Powell said that the Labour government would also commit to making “the platform economy work for creatives and small start-up businesses”. On that subject, she announced that “Labour is keeping the D [digital] in DCMS for the moment at least”, as she believes that governments have previously failed to “harness the technological revolution”. Powell pledged that Labour would “use the power of technology to support, not stifle the work of creatives” and seek to take some of the influence and wealth from big tech companies who have “unbreakable monopolies” on the sector.

Like the current government, Labour has plans to drive the “sustainable growth” of the creative sectors outside of London and the South East. Powell said that this would involve “devolving powers and resources” and “supporting and incentivising creative clusters around the UK”.

Powell explained that Labour would aim to secure the UK creative sector’s global position through investigating “international competitive advantages and disadvantages”, as Labour believes that the sector does not only bring economic benefits, but also improves the UK’s “global reach and soft power”.

Her overall position is that the creative industries are “significant beyond economic performance” and “a sector that boosts all other sectors”, while she credits “cutting edge tech and design” with the ability to open up new markets.

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