Budget November 2017: what does it mean for cultural learning?

29 November 2017

On Wednesday 22 November the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, presented a budget that laid out the Government’s spending plan for the next year. You can read his speech and the full suite of budget documents.

What were we hoping for?

Alongside all the partners in the sector, the CLA and What Next? put together a comprehensive response to the Industrial Strategy consultation, calling for funding for local Creative Clusters and for an education strand to support the skills needed to develop the cultural and creative workforce. Much of this was echoed and supported in Sir Peter Bazalgette’s Independent Review and his recommendations for a Creative Industry Sector Deal: he called for a £500 million fund for the clusters as well as some strong measures to support careers advice, Saturday Clubs and the talent pipeline.

We were also hoping to see the recent Conservative Manifesto commitments to a Cultural Development Fund and a Curriculum Fund honoured: with money for local place-making and for cultural resources for schools respectively.

What are the broader issues?

The key issues for many of our colleagues and stakeholders go far beyond these measures, with our school-based colleagues calling strongly for funds to address the significant education budget shortfall. A 2017 National Audit Office report states that mainstream schools will have to make £3billion in ‘efficiency savings’ by 2019-20, against a backdrop of the increased costs, a figure that the National Education Union estimates to equate to an 8% cut in real terms.

Colleagues have also called for an urgent review of funding in the Early Years sector; citing as key issues the significant underfunding of the recent 30 hours of free childcare, compounded by the increase in the national living wage (reported comprehensively here by Nursery World).

The Local Government Association called for a raft of measures to help address the £5.8 billion funding gap that local authorities are facing in the next two years.

Unless these systemic funding issues are addressed, it’s unlikely that any current cultural education initiative will be able to enable a strategic or long-lasting difference.

What was announced for arts, culture and the Creative Industries?

Industrial strategy

The Chancellor’s speech was full of references to ‘bright futures’, ‘innovation’ and ‘boundless opportunity’, but it did not give a great deal of detail as to how the new investment into Research and Development, Artificial Intelligence and tech development would be spent. It’s hoped that this will all be fully laid out (along with the plans for the Creative Industry Sector Deal) in the Industrial Strategy White Paper that is due to be published on Monday 27 November.

However, we do know there will be:

  • a further £2.3billion for Research and Development
  • a £1.7billion Transforming Cities Fund to improve local transport connections and which commits £385million to projects to develop next-generation 5G mobile and full-fibre broadband networks
  • a further £1 million to extend the UK Games Fund until 2020, aiding access to finance and business support for early stage video game developers
  • a review of the way that the apprenticeship levy works (something our sector has been calling for)

The big-ticket items from the Bazalgette Review are notably absent from the document, but as he tweeted, some could still happen with support of DCMS and the sector.

The Creative Industries Federation has published this statement – expressing general disappointment in the provision, though welcoming funding for creative technology.


The eye-catching education announcements were all focused on the promotion of the STEM agenda (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), a real missed opportunity to focus on giving young people the right mix of arts and science skills that employers say that they want (read the CLA/Nesta STEAM briefing for the headlines of why STEAM is essential for children and young people).

The excellent Schools Week gives a good breakdown of the budget policies that are relevant to the education sector. There is extra money for additional students who take up Maths A-level, and for more specialist Maths and Computing teachers, facilities and schools.

There was no mention of the Curriculum Fund in the budget, but DfE officials have confirmed that they will be consulting on its potential scope and scale until the summer: so do watch this space.

You can read the critical response on the education provision from the National Education Union here.

Local government and place-making

The LGA has released a statement that expresses severe disappointment that the budget did not address the gap in funding, particularly for adult social care and children’s services. It also points out that there is nothing to replace the forthcoming loss of EU funding for communities.

  • Cultural Development Fund

It’s great to see that the Cultural Development Fund has made its way into this budget, with a pledge of £2 million over the next few years. Although this is a significantly lower investment than we were hoping for (initial plans were in the hundreds of millions), it does clearly show that the Department for Digital, Cultural, Media and Sport, and our Minister John Glen has been lobbying hard for the sector in a difficult climate – many thanks to them. It is also to be hoped that this can be used as a ‘proof of concept’ to show the Treasury just how important the arts and culture are to place-making and growth, and to lever further, more substantial investment in the future.

The Budget document states that the fund is ‘to support the role culture can play in regeneration and local growth, the government will provide £2 million funding to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for place-based cultural development’. If it is to be successful then it absolutely must include education, children and young people, and must invest in people and their capacity alongside infrastructure.

The LGA has released a separate statement on the Cultural Development Fund that states: ‘while today’s announcement is helpful, further funding would genuinely make a difference in creating culture-led, place-based development in communities’.

Any other things to note?

  • Rosie Luff from Hanover Communications pointed out on twitter that it is good to see the DCMS budget holding steady with a slight increase.
  • The feared changes to the University fee structure to favour STEM subjects did not go ahead (see the Creative Industries Federation letter to The Times for details).
  • It’s worth noting this is now the only annual opportunity to allocate funds in this way. This means that anything not funded in this budget will probably not recieve new investment in 2018.

Image Credit: FIGMENT 2016 3. Credit - Derby Museums Trust

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