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Local Govt.

Local Government Association

This is an edited transcript of comments from an online Creative Industries Council Place Forum event on June 6 2024. Read more about the Forum.

Cllr. Peter Golds, Local Government Association

I’m a member of the Cultural Tourism Board at the Local Government Association (LGA), a coordinating body of all local authorities across England and Wales.

Local government and public funding have an enormous part to play in the development of the creative industries. People do not realise how much we do and how big our involvement is. Indeed, our contribution to culture is over a billion pounds a year in England alone.

There is a clear connection between publicly funded arts and the creative industries, such as in developing the talent pipeline through education and community activities and particularly between the performing arts, screen industry, and the commercial stage.

Local government also sets the context in which the creative industries can grow through wider planning, strategy setting, and unfortunately, regulations. Establishing culture as a priority for economic development strategies, developing cultural partnerships and investing in public cultural infrastructure can all support the development of creative clusters. (See more about the LGA's work here).

The UK has an extraordinary cultural and creative background that we do not always understand. There is so much that we do in this sector that increases the development of the economy and community.

Just look at some examples of diversity interventions. The British Library’s Business and IP centres have attracted large numbers of women, Black and Asian minorities and people with disabilities, whilst Screen Yorkshire’s Beyond the Brontes is increasing diversity in the screen industries by providing production training and work placements to young people aged 18-30 from different backgrounds. That programme, in particular, is a partnership with the Mayor of West Yorkshire and West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The LGA has published two reports on creative places. One is a guide for councils seeking to support their creative economy (i.e. mapping and investing). The LGA has also published case studies which explore how Combined Authorities are prioritising culture and the creative industries at a regional level, which we can learn from.

But we all know Council funding is under enormous strain with pressured budgets and an increased demand for vital statutory services, most importantly Adult Social Care.

LGA surveys show that two thirds of councillors expect to see cutbacks in local neighbourhood services, including culture and leisure, as they try to plug funding gaps, but they still understand that investment in culture and creative industries can have an important impact on local economic growth, the health and wellbeing of residents, and the quality of places.

We therefore welcome support from partners in the creative sectors as part of calls for long-term sustainable funding. The LGA continues to make the case for more predictable core funding for culture whilst highlighting some of the more complex challenges and opportunities the sector faces.

For instance, in March 2024, we published a series of think pieces from inspirational ventures on the future of cultural devolution and place making. They include contributions from the Bennett Institute of Public Policy, Universities of Cambridge, Southampton and Northumbria, Arts Council England, Centre for Cultural Value and the Chief Cultural Leisure Officers Association.

We will also be publishing a series of infographics to show the impact of funding pressures on councils' cultural spending, as well as the fragmented picture for funding and governance at a local level.

If we want to make our mutual resources for culture go further, we must all work together as a sector to share our investment and ensure it supports local needs and develops local strategies.

I’ll conclude by recounting the time I went to a tiny youth centre in a deprived area of East London. The local authority had provided lots of youth workers who developed an offer they thought the young people wanted, but I quickly discovered that the young people were instead eager to visit a small room where a young man, a year or two older than themselves, was teaching them how to synthesise their music. Here was culture and creativity in a single place, in a deprived area, and this is what we should be aiming for.

Image: LGA