Manifestos are out!

27 April 2015

All the major parties have now published their Manifesto documents and (as our Twitter followers will know) we’ve been through them all with a tooth-comb. 

This post gives the key points, pros and cons for cultural learning for the three main parties, and signposts to analysis and policies of the others.


Conservative / Labour / Lib Dem

The positives

Culture in every Manifesto

It’s worth noting at the outset that the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have all included the arts and culture in their main manifesto documents. This is a real step forward and shows great progress from the last general election. Each of the three manifestos includes a separate section for culture, showing that they have taken our issues seriously and have created tangible policies for our sector. Of course, in a perfect world, we would love to see the arts and culture stranded through every other section too!

The consistent messaging that colleagues have been using to lobby for the arts and culture really seems to be paying off, as there does appear to be a clear understanding from all three parties that:

  • the creative and digital industries will form a significant percentage of future jobs and we must not loose the opportunity to equip our workforce with the skills, knowledge and understanding need to succeed.
  • the arts, culture and heritage are intrinsically important to the nation, to our quality of life, and to our understanding of one another.

Each party has also included a pledge to continue Free Admission to museums, which is great to see, they have also all embraced apprenticeships and pledged to create more in our industry.

We very much hope that this considered approach continues and we can build upon it with whoever comes into power.

The negatives

No solutions for Local Authorities

None of the manifestos have adequately addressed the issue of shrinking local authority funding. As the CLA has discussed many times, this issue is one of the most pressing facing cultural learning, with LA support, funds and expertise in areas such as arts, informal learning and youth arts disappearing sharply over the last five years and set to dwindle even further under any new government. We need some radical solutions to this issue, and all manifestos were short on clear policies to address this.

Lack of recognition of the importance of STEAM

Although the Lab, Con and Lib Dem parties have each recognised the importance of Science and of studying STEM subjects in schools, we felt they all missed a significant trick in not formally recognising that the arts and culture need to be studied and supported alongside science to give young people, and our workplaces the creative, innovative and entrepreneurial skills that employers need. Individuals from both the Conservative and Labour parties have been very vocally supportive of the STEAM agenda, so it’s a shame not to have seen it reflected in the documents. We very much hope that any new government takes the opportunity to invest in and champion STEAM when they take up office.

Detailed policies


  • Extremely concerning to see a strong and renewed support for the EBacc in the Conservative Manifesto as we know that this policy has served to significantly disincentivise the study of the arts in schools over the last five years.
  • New tests for 11 year olds in literacy and numeracy; to focus on times tables, spelling and grammar
  • Children to re-take SATs at Secondary School if they have not achieved the required standard
  • Pupil premium to be maintained
  • Academies and free schools programmes to be expanded
  • Schools budget not ringfenced; with a real terms cut, possibly of up to about 10.5% (According to calculations of blogger Sam Freedman)
  • Support for Creative Industries focused tax breaks including Theatre and Orchestras
  • Support for Great Exhibition in the North; plans for a new theatre (The Factory, Manchester) and for Manchester Museum
  • Volunteering for three days a year to be a workplace entitlement for large companies and the public sector



  • Claims that its Manifesto will be cost neutral and that it has identified funding sources for all their pledges
  • Will cut tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 a year
  • Will provide a paid starter job for every young person unemployed for over a year, which they must take or lose benefits.
  • Creation of new Technical Degrees with employers to ensure jobs
  • Protecting the schools budget so it rises with inflation – but not taking into account rising pupil numbers (this amounts to as much as a 9.5% cut according to Sam Freedman)
  • The further development of the Technical Baccalaureate
  • New independent careers advice, offering personalised face-to-face guidance on routes to university and apprenticeships
  • New local-level Directors of School Standards to monitor performance, improve it and intervene in underperforming schools
  • A commitment to end Free Schools (but parents, schools and entrepreneurs still encouraged to set up new schools in areas of need)
  • Wraparound childcare from 08:00 – 18:00 and a new National Primary Childcare Service to promote voluntary and charitable delivery of quality extracurricular activities
  • A universal entitlement to a creative education so that every young person has access to cultural activity
  • Institutions that receive arts funding will be required to open up their doors to young people
  • Will create a Prime Minister’s Committee on Arts, Culture and Creative Industries, with membership from all sectors and regions
  • The English Devolution Act: a transfer of £30 billion to regions alongside new powers over economic development, skills, employment, housing and business

STOP PRESS: Labour have published a follow-up document to their Manifesto - a Charter for Culture and the Creative Industries.  This Charter has 20 points and principles for a thriving cultural ecology and Labour are urging colleagues to sign up to the document if they agree. They have also included an interesting list of ways that they will make the Charter a reality. It includes the CLA Ofsted recommendation as well as a firm commitment to keep DCMS as a government department.

Liberal Democrats

  • Will build on the success of the Regional Growth Fund and will work through Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs)
  • Support growth in the creative industries, including video gaming, by continuing to support the Creative Industries Council
  • Will promote creative skills, support modern + flexible IP rules, and access to finance for small creative businesses
  • Protect the education budget in real terms from the Early Years to age 19 (no detail on rising pupil numbers)
  • Continue the Pupil Premium
  • Work to introduce a new Young Person’s Discount Card, for young people aged 16–21 - discounts on travel and other services

In addition to the main manifesto, the Lib Dems have also published a specific document on the Creative Industries, including some pledges on cultural learning, such as:

  • Require local authorities to publish their per-head spend on culture and the arts.
  • Ask Ofsted to monitor the curriculum so that no school can easily drop subjects like music, art or drama
  • Require every state-funded school to follow a minimum curriculum entitlement, so that no school can simply drop creative subjects like art, music or design technology
  • Merge the two skills councils, Creative & Cultural Skills and Creative Skillset, into a single body



Arts Council England’s summary of the Green Party’s Manifesto states:

'The Greens promise to reduce VAT to 5% for live performances, give local authorities powers to support live performances in the arts with local funding and support initiatives to make culture available to all. They were the only party to include a specific spending commitment on the arts – to increase arts funding by £500m a year.'

The BBC summary of the main education pledges from the Green Party:

Scrap university tuition fees; bring academies and free schools into the local authority system; ensure all teachers are qualified and end performance-related pay and; scrap Ofsted and SATS.


Plaid Cymru

The Creative Industries Federation summary highlights the following Plaid Cymru pledges for the arts:

‘In addition to Plaid Cymru’s specific commitments to arts funding they: “will work with local authorities and arts organisations to ensure a minimum level of provision of arts activity for young people in every local authority area.” Plaid Cymru wants “not only a thriving arts and culture sector, but excellent broadcasting services and innovative creative industries”. They call specifically for responsibility for broadcasting to be devolved, to “safeguard” S4C, and they “will continue to maximise the social, cultural and economic benefits of a vibrant film and creative-industries sector in Wales as one of our designated key sectors for growth.

Plaid Cymru “will develop, in partnership with the education department and the Arts Council of Wales, a new approach to how children and young people access the arts. This will include providing more opportunities for children to access the arts and theatre as part of their school experience; reforming the way music education is taught and resourced in our schools”.’



Arts Professional reports:

‘The Scottish National Party (SNP) manifesto, ‘Stronger for Scotland’ makes no mention of the arts, but in relation to creativity, says it will “seek increased investment through BBC Scotland so that a fairer share of the licence fee is spent in Scotland... giving a £100m boost to our creative sector”. The document also includes proposals to support a Creative Content Fund for the Games industry to encourage the formation of new studios and back the retention of the Video Games tax relief. Policy and spending decisions on culture, health, education, local government and heritage are all the devolved responsibility of the Scottish Government, not Westminster.’

The Telegraph sets out the main education pledges as:

‘The SNP will guarantee the continuation of ‘free’ university tuition in Scotland for Scottish and EU students and support Labour’s plans to cut fees south of the Border. The manifesto also outlines plans for 30,000 new modern apprenticeships every year by 2020 with the aim of cutting youth unemployment by 40 per cent by 2021.’



The Guardian reports the headline cultural and education pledges:

  • Promote a “unifying British culture open to anyone who wishes to identify with Britain and British values”
  • End the use of multi-lingual formatting on official documents, which will be published only in English and, “where appropriate”, Welsh and Gaelic
  • The Department for Culture Media and Sport is among those earmarked for abolition or merger with other departments
  • Removal of tuition fees for students taking approved degrees in science, medicine, technology, engineering and maths on condition that they practise and work and pay tax in the UK for five years after graduation
  • Decrease the amount of paperwork teachers deal with and enforce current restrictions on class limits. Scrap teachers’ performance-related pay
  • Abolish key stage 1 SATs, set at the age of seven
  • Students from EU to pay the same fee rates as international students
  • Protection of existing grammar schools from change in status
  • Students to have option to take apprenticeship qualification locally instead of four non-core GCSEs
  • Support “age-appropriate” sex and relationship education at secondary level, but not for primary school children.
  • Support right of parents to home-school their children
  • Support and funding for free schools