Autumn Statement 2013 – What it means for arts, culture and learning

16 December 2013

Two weeks ago the Chancellor, George Osborne, set out the government’s latest spending plans in the autumn statement. You can watch it on the Parliamentary You Tube channel and you can download the documents here.

Here are the key headlines for arts, culture, the creative industries and education.

  • Further cuts to central government budgets

The first thing to note is that there will be a further £3bn cut to central government spending over the next three years (this will not be taken from the health, schools or overseas aid budgets).

Details of how this cut will be passed on are yet to be announced - but a table in the statement document seems to indicate that DCMS will receive a cut of £13million in 2014/15 and a cut of £12million in 2015/16 – making it likely that the arts and cultural sector will receive a number of unexpected reductions.

The Statement does indicate that there will be no further central cuts to local government budgets as an incentive for LAs to freeze council tax, but the central pot for communities will be reduced by £24million in 14/15 and then a further £13million in 15/16.

  • Education

Most of the budget lines attributed to education have already been announced and are related to the government’s free school and academies programme, existing commitments to expand free child care and the pupil premium. The roll out of University Technical Colleges (UTCs) is also given a mention.

Free school meals

As has been widely reported in the press. Free school meals will be provided for all children up to 7yrs old at an initial estimated cost of £620 million in 14/15 and £755 million in 15/16. This policy will be supported by further spend from the capital budget for kitchen equipment and capacity to enable schools (and some FE and Sixth forms) to deliver free meals.


The document includes lots of emphasis on expanding access to and provision of Higher Education. For example, there are plans to drop the cap on the number of places that Universities can offer, but there is a particular focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects- which will get extra subsidy (£50 million per academic year).

This expansion will be substantially financed by the sale of the student loan book by the government to private providers. As the Independent reports this is already causing serious concerns that the sale will lead to higher interest rates for graduates – though this is denied by the Department of Education.


The Statement refers in several places to apprenticeships, with plans in place for employers to receive funds for the training costs of apprentices directly through HMRC, with employers expected to contribute too. It is also announced that government expects to provide £40 million for an additional 20,000 higher apprenticeships to start over the next 2 academic years.

Young people

The Chancellor states that, in order to encourage more work opportunities for young people, there will be new NI and tax reliefs for businesses wishing to hire young people under 21.

The government will invest around £10 million a year in Jobcentre Plus support for 16 and 17 year olds who want help to find apprenticeships and traineeships - this will to be delivered in partnership with local authorities.

There will also be changes to the benefits system

: anyone aged 18-21 applying for benefits without level 2 qualifications in Maths and English skills will need train from day one or lose their benefits and after 6 months on Job Seekers Allowance, claimants will be required to participate in a work experience placement, a traineeship or community work placement.

  • Culture and the creative industries

Tax reliefs

As expected, this statement announces some new plans for Social Enterprise tax relief (the detail of which will follow this week). This is part of the reform that What Next? colleagues were consulted on earlier this year.

There is also a specific mention of planned tax relief for the Theatre sector:

‘Government intends to introduce new support for theatres from April 2015 that recognises the unique value that the theatre sector brings to the UK economy. A formal consultation will be launched in early 2014 that considers a limited tax relief for commercial theatre productions and a targeted tax relief for theatres investing in new works or touring productions to regional theatres’

Although both of these initiatives could prove in time to be beneficial to the cultural sector, it is extremely important to note that they cannot substitute from core funding through grant in aid or through local authorities.

There is also a new relief for the film industry.


The GREAT campaign continues to be a real priority for his government, with a 50% increase in funding

in 2014-15 and 2015-16. The document states that this is ‘so that more of the world, including Emerging Markets such as China, India and Brazil, are aware of the UK’s business, educational, tourism and cultural opportunities’.

Investment in National Film and Television School

The Autumn Statement sets out investment of £5 million in the National Film and Television School’s Digital Village, aiming to expand and upgrade the existing facility into a world-class training centre.

  • What’s to come?

The Chancellor’s headlines for this statement were of cautious optimism. He reported that the economy is recovering, but made it clear that this recovery would not lead to increased spending by the state. Caps to welfare and benefits were trailed as likely elements of the next comprehensive spending review, and the words ‘growth’, ‘fairness’ and ‘job-rich’ were used extensively.