Before COVID-19 hit, the UK’s creative sector was booming. Statistics published in February 2020 showed the industry contributed more than £111 billion to the economy in 2018 – or £13 million an hour.
Its growth, at 7.4%, was six percentage points higher than the growth rate of the UK economy as a whole.
But the sector has been hit hard, with 63% of creative professionals saying their turnover has decreased by more than half since the pandemic, rising to 75% for those who depend on live audiences.
The Government offered some much-needed support for those businesses in the Spring Budget on 3 March 2021, including extensions to wider financial support like the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) and the furlough scheme, as well as new sector-specific funding.
Culture Recovery Fund
An extra £300m in funding was announced for the Culture Recovery Fund, to support cultural organisations in England.
The fund, valued at £1.57bn in total, was launched in July last year and offered two rounds of grant applications, the second of which closed at the end of January.
It recently faced media criticism after a National Audit Office report said only £495m of the fund’s £830m budget had so far been paid out – but the Government has argued this is because some money was held back “so that we could reflect the latest public health position”, and that “no eligible organisation will be allowed to fail as a result of the payment schedule”.
Film and TV Production Restart Scheme
From reality shows to Netflix dramas, millions of people have turned to on-screen entertainment over the past year to get through the tedium of lockdown.
But keeping up production under social distancing restrictions has been far from easy. To encourage screen sector businesses to restart productions that were paused due to the pandemic, the Government has extended the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme for an extra six months, so it’s now due to end on 31 December 2021.
Through the scheme, businesses can claim compensation for coronavirus-related losses on film and TV productions.
More flexibility for apprentices
As part of the Budget, a £7m fund was announced for “portable apprenticeships” in England.
These will allow apprentices to work across multiple projects with different employers – a setup that could work well for creative industry businesses.
The Government has also said it will ask employers and the Creative Industries Council to bring forward proposals on how these apprenticeships might work.
What was missing?
Ahead of the Budget, the Creative Industries Federation had called for additional measures including an expansion to creative industry tax reliefs. This was not included in the Budget, but a review of R&D tax reliefs was announced.
There had also been calls for Government-backed insurance for live music events ahead of the planned reopening dates for venues, but this proposal did not feature in the Budget either.
Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, called the omission “disappointing”, saying this would have provided “ the degree of certainty that is so desperately needed”.
Norbury added that while the extension of the SEISS to around 600,000 newly self-employed people was welcome news, there are “still thousands of people in our sector who are falling through the gaps”.
“More than just support, we need urgent structural change to ensure freelancers – a vital part of our future workforce – have every opportunity to thrive,” she said.
For more details on COVID-19 support announced, as well as the other main measures from Budget Day, take a look at our full Spring Budget report.