The Government’s obsession with London is holding back our creative industries – and the recovery


This post originally featured on the Liberal Democrat Voice website

As a failed rock guitarist but still passionate consumer of music I always look forward to the Mercury Music awards at the end of October, and this year’s nominees were as interesting and eclectic as they usually are. What wasn’t as diverse was where these acts originated from. Over 60% were from the Greater London area and only four were from outside the south east of England, which is surprising when you consider the award covers the whole of the UK and Ireland. It seems the advice I heard fifteen years ago during my short and unsuccessful music career is still true – ‘if you want to make it, move to London’.

We often hear about the unhealthy domination of London in financial services, but this domination also weighs heavily in the UK’s creative industries. From music to TV, from publishing to videogames and the arts, most leading companies and individuals in these sectors are in Soho or within striking distance of London. Government policy is perpetuating the problem. A recent report on Arts Council funding found that £86 per head is spent on London projects, compared to a tiny £8 for the rest of England. Government schemes like Tech City, although admirable further concentrate the growth of our digital economy in the capital and pull in highly skilled workers from the regions.

This centralisation is a huge missed opportunity for economic growth. The creative industries are big business and currently contribute 6% of our GDP, employing over two million people. We are global leaders in many of these sectors, from fashion to architecture to digital media. Whilst the current ‘rebalancing of the economy’ debate is obsessed with growing manufacturing and green industries, we are ignoring creative industries we have natural advantages in, which will have growing markets abroad as the middle class of developing nations become more affluent. As America has shown, if people are consuming your media, they’ll also want your goods and services.

With this in mind stimulating growth of our creative industries should be a key pillar of Liberal Democrat growth policy as we move towards the next election. My top five proposals would be:

  1. An immediate rebalancing of lottery and arts  funding to focus on creative projects outside of London
  2. The establishment of specific creative industry enterprise zones in our regional cities to encourage start-up businesses and foreign investment
  3. Tax breaks to encourage some of our creative giants to relocate parts of their business outside of London. The BBC’s recent move to Salford’s MediaCity is a perfect example of this
  4. Continue the drive for superfast broadband throughout the country, which is essential for so many of our creative industries
  5. Elevating support for the Creative Industries in our 2015 Manifesto to the same level of importance as manufacturing and green industries.

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