Support for the creative economy

Written evidence submitted by the Local Government Association [SCE 068]


The Local Government Association (LGA) is here to support, promote and improve local government.

We will fight local government’s corner and support local authorities through challenging times by focusing on our top two priorities:

· representing and advocating for local government and making the case for greater devolution

· helping local authorities tackle their challenges and take advantage of new opportunities to deliver better value for money services.


Local councils have long recognised the potential of the creative economy to drive sustainable economic growth in their areas and the strong correlation between creative industries and a vibrant visitor economy. In this submission, we emphasise that:

1. the creative economy makes a vital contribution to economic growth and the majority of the sector operates at a very local level.

2. councils play a key leadership and direct support role in the creative economy as part of their overall drive to increase economic growth, and national policy and funding must recognise this.

3. developing a future workforce with the right skills is a key issue for the creative economy and key to tackling this is further devolution of skills policy to local councils and their partners so that local skills providers are more responsive to local employers' needs.

1. The local economy and the role of "clusters" and "hubs" in facilitating innovation and growth in the creative sector

There is a significant local and place dimension to the creative economy which means it is entirely right for clusters and hubs to form in a way that reflects the level at which the creative economy operates. The creative economy is made up of a smaller number of multi-nationals and multitude of small-scale, niche companies often based around the skills and talents of individual entrepreneurs. It is often highly clustered with sub-sectors strongly represented in particular areas, for example, computer gaming and animation in Gateshead.

The size and shape of the creative economy will vary from place to place-some councils have creative industry strategies and have invested in business support for this sector and have active plans to help develop connectivity-for example the Leicester creative quarter and Lewisham’s digital hub. In addition, the 10 councils that make up the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire mapped the concentrations of creative industries and agreed a common framework for developing creative industries in South Hampshire

Universities have a key role to play-clusters sometimes develop around university courses. Brighton City Council has worked closely with Sussex and Brighton universities and Wired Sussex (an employer membership body) to develop specialist courses in e-learning design. The LGA is working with Universities UK to explore how the link between business, university and local government can be strengthened.

The local offer in a particular place may be the crucial factor in bringing investment to the United Kingdom. The promotion and sustainability of a vibrant creative sector in increasingly competitive global markets means we need to not only get the national framework right, but also recognise the role of local councils who can offer support suited to local need.

Local authorities are also using the creative economy to boost other parts of the local economy, such as the visitor economy. For example, Derbyshire County Council and other local authorities in the Peak District are in partnership with tourism bodies to boost the numbers of overseas and domestic visitors to the Peak District by linking the area to celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice and numerous television and film adaptations that have been filmed in the area.

2. Public bodies responsible for supporting the sector

There is a significant local role in supporting the creative industries. Not least because:

· there is a significant local dimension to the creative economy and local know-how, relationships and networks are critical to the creative economy

· local councils through their cultural services provide the foundation blocks of the creative economy, such as running libraries and museums, providing youth services for young people to express themselves and providing parts of the regulatory regime that protect the cultural economy

· their wider role in providing services to communities and convening partnerships allows them to play a key convening role for the creative economy.

Collectively local authorities spend around £3 billion annually on cultural services providing direct support for museums, theatres and libraries, events and festivals and the provision and upkeep of open spaces. However, councils also play other key roles.

· Planning powers-councils have an important role to play by exercising their planning powers to ensure that access to a range of cultural facilities is an integral part of wider regeneration and growth. For example, a framework and toolkit was created to ensure that the vision of sustainable communities in the Thames Gateway had culture at its core.

· Capital investment-local authorities’ investment in new facilities, some of which are at the heart of plans for economic growth and regeneration. For example, Kent County Council put culture and the creative economy at the heart of its ambitious plans to regenerate Margate with the Turner Contemporary providing a world class gallery and community building.

· Direct support-local authorities can provide direct support for creative workspaces. The London Borough of Lewisham’s priority is to develop the digital and media sector including a project to deliver new creative industry business activity in empty commercial spaces, creating new routes to market and enlivening the high street. 

· Convening local partners-local authorities can provide community leadership and bring together partners. Eastleigh Borough Council is working with local partners to convert a former Royal Mail sorting office into affordable workspace for creative industries.

· Strategic partnerships-local authorities can provide strategic alliances with education and training partners. Cornwall County Council works with the University College Falmouth (UCF) who play a vital role providing research and development, and innovation capacity to creative entrepreneurs. UCF provides the "sector with access to high-end equipment, ideas and expertise in design, digital media, visual arts and crafts with UCF also acting as a portal to other university research departments."

3. The Creative Economy and Skills

Skills is a key issue for creative industries and those that work in the sector are diverse and highly skilled. However, too often there is a mismatch between local provision and local labour market demand. Across England there is an oversupply of skills in some sectors and an undersupply in others. More than a quarter of employers in the creative and cultural sector have had difficulty in recruiting due to a lack of experience and skills in applicants. This situation is being driven by a skills system incentivising a ‘bums on seats’ approach to further education, rather than a more strategic consideration of what skills are needed by the local employers critical to driving growth.

It is also important to remember that the creative workforce is not just made up of people with creative occupations but people who support and promote them, so skills in IT, crafts and technologies are also very important.

We need to find ways to make local skills providers more responsive to local employers’ needs now and in the future. Councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) can play an important role. More radically, local partners should have more scope to adjust the financial incentives (currently under the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Skills Funding Agency control) to make the system more locally responsive.

Local authorities have a long tradition of providing services to young people and despite funding challenges, are seeking to bring together partners to reconnect skills to jobs, creating clear progression routes into work and further learning for their young people.

This is true for the creative economy as well and there are numerous examples of local authorities working with partners in the creative industry to help provide skills and training required.

The Royal Opera House has moved its production park to Purfleet in Thurrock with the active support of the council. The major development is creating 250 jobs and 2,250 training opportunities for 16 to 19-year-olds and professionals seeking a recognised qualification in offstage and backstage technical skills.

Sheffield City Council worked with The Sheffield College Enterprise Gateway to secure over 20 apprenticeships for young people in creative industries. In order to respond to the needs of often smaller employers in the creative industries sector, the apprentices work on a project by project basis for several employers.

There are thousands of hard-working and passionate young people out there who are crying out for a job and a chance to prove their potential. The Creative Employment Programme will hopefully play a key role in linking them the many opportunities available in the arts sector which would otherwise pass them by. It is vital that national schemes translate to suit local needs. To help young people get the most from these new opportunities the National Skills Academy needs to work closely with the councils on the ground who have a greater understanding of the issues facing their communities and labour markets.

November 2012

Prepared 17th November 2012