Creative sector 'manifesto' calls for new visa system

The Creative Industries Federation has called for a new visa system to support the creative sector in a "manifesto" for the upcoming UK General Election.

Theresa May: UK PM named the creative industries as one of five key industrial sectors
Theresa May: UK PM named the creative industries as one of five key industrial sectors

Among the Federation’s ten "priority" recommendations is to revamp the visa system, which it says "was built for an industrial landscape that no longer exists".

Instead, the body for the UK’s creative industries, arts and cultural education is calling for a "21st century model that recognises the needs of fast-growing, world-leading and highly innovative sectors, including science, tech and the creative industries."

The number of creative companies that export should be doubled, the manifesto says, which would mean changing trade strategies that currently benefit large companies. The creative industries are made up of mostly small and very small business, the Federation said.

The Federation is giving its manifesto to political parties and its members ahead of the election on 8 June. Prime minister Theresa May called for a snap election ahead of negotiations with the European Union over the UK’s exit.

Before May’s shock election announcement last week, the Federation had been lobbying for creative enterprise zones to be established in a response to the government’s green paper consultation on a new industrial strategy.

May, who became prime minister last July, named the creative industries as one of five key industrial sectors in January. By contrast, the coalition government led by David Cameron in 2010 did not recognise the creative sector among nine identified as integral.

Today John Kampfer, the Federation’s chief executive, said: "With much of this growth, innovation and job creation emerging beyond London and the South East, the creative industries are also critical to delivering social and economic regeneration in places that need it the most. Few other sectors can deliver so much and at this scale. "With the right vision, leadership and policies in place, the creative industries can help secure an economy and society that works for all. But if government fails to deliver, this vision is at risk."

The Federation’s ten priority recommendations:

1. Ensure that the creative industries and arts are a priority sector in Brexit negotiations. Federation members were overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU for very practical reasons. The sector will be particularly vulnerable if we do not get right all the key issues in negotiations, among them movement of talent and intellectual property (IP).

2. Prioritise the creative industries in a new visa system. Our visa system was built for an industrial landscape that no longer exists. We need a 21st century model that recognises the needs of fast-growing, world-leading and highly innovative sectors, including science, tech and the creative industries. 

3. Double the number of creative companies that export by the end of the next Parliament. Trade strategies are currently geared toward larger enterprises, whereas the creative industries are primarily made up of small and micro businesses. The sector accounted for 9% of total exports of services from the UK in 2014, valued at £20bn – an underestimate. With the right support, exports could be far higher, offering economic stability to a post-Brexit Britain.

4. Introduce creative enterprise zones. The success of the creative industries can and must be harnessed to deliver growth and regeneration across the UK. Government should extend the roll-out of enterprise zones to cover the creative industries. Areas that axe or severely reduce arts funding would be ineligible.

5. Establish a creative industries ‘business booster’ network. Freelancers, microbusinesses and SMEs – the backbone of the creative industries – often struggle to access finance and support around intellectual property and exports at the early, often risky stage of development. A national centre, based outside London and with a regional network, to provide advice on these issues is needed to ensure the creative industries continue to grow apace.

6. Set up a creative skills commission. The creative industries face significant skills shortages because we have failed to prepare young people in education and training. The commission would report within six months on practical measures to defuse the skills time bomb and better equip the next generation for 21st century life.

7. Launch a creative careers campaign. Careers guidance must be transformed. Government should lead on a creative careers campaign to correct inadequate information about potential careers in the creative industries and open up access to those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Better, inspirational advice would go some way towards solving the skills crisis in the creative industries and in others that rely heavily on creative skills, such as manufacturing.

8. Limit ‘outstanding’ to schools that warrant it. Creative employment is resistant to automation, and adapting to the future jobs landscape will demand creative skills. Securing a workforce fit for the 21st century begins at school. A school must teach at least one creative subject, in lesson time, in order to be eligible for an "outstanding" rating by Ofsted.

9. Maintain and inflation-proof existing national and local investment in culture and the arts. Modest public investment in the arts not only supports our world-beating public institutions but provides cross-fertilisation for the commercial sector in talent and ideas.

10. Maintain and increase the growth of the creative industries. Over the past five years, the sector has grown by 34% – the fastest growing part of the UK’s economy. Government should commit to maintaining and increasing this pace of growth by 2022 for the sake not only of the sector, but of the wider economy too. This could take the GVA of the sector to an impressive £120bn.

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