UK Government undermining design with "disappointing" budget

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Design industries react to Budget 2017
UK government undermines design with "disappointing" budget, say industry organisations

UK government undermines design with "disappointing" budget, say industry organisations

With its latest budget announcement, the UK government has failed to recognise the importance of the design industry to the country's economy, according to the Design Council and the Creative Industries Federation.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the government's annual plans for spending yesterday, 22 November 2017.

Significant emphasis was placed on technology and housing. But, according to figureheads from two major industry bodies, the budget should have made more mention of the country's world-leading design industry.

"The speech, which focused on science, innovation and emerging technologies, did not mention design at all," said Design Council CEO Sarah Weir in a statement.

"This was disappointing, particularly as we know that design contributes over £71 billion to the UK economy, and that there is an ever-increasing skills gap," she continued. "To deliver an agenda that creates long-term growth and boosts productivity we must also realise the importance of design."

Government budget is missed opportunity, says design industry

Weir claims that the government's lack of investment into design will come at a huge cost. Referencing research that is set to be published in the next month, she said that a skills shortage is already costing the UK economy £5.9 billion each year.

"What our latest research has also uncovered for the first time is the far reaching, cross-sector contribution of design and its wider impact on the UK economy," she said.

"Unless industry can provide the sufficient additional training required post a formal education to unlock these skills, and without urgent action from the government, this situation is likely to worsen as technology significantly changes the way we work and live."

Her frustrations have been echoed by Creative Industries Federation (CIF) chief executive John Kampfner, who said the government was at risk of "undermining the growth and prosperity" of the industry with its "lack of ambition".

"The government has missed an important opportunity to invest in the UK's fastest growing sector at a critical time for the country," said Kampfner.

In its Global Talent report released earlier this year, CIF revealed that the creative industries contributes more to the UK economy than the automotive, oil and gas, aerospace and life sciences industries combined.

The report stated that the creative industries accounts for three million jobs in the UK, meaning that one in 11 jobs in the country are in the sector.

"Failure to back our world-leading creative enterprises and entrepreneurs will be to the detriment of a sector that creates jobs at four times the rate of the wider UK workforce," said Kampfner.

"A lack of commitment to the creative industries will mean that this job creation in our towns and cities across the land will be damaged."

"All this comes at a time of lacklustre growth forecasts and the apportioning of a further £3 billion to deal with faltering Brexit negotiations," he added.

RIBA welcomes £44 billion budget for housing

The UK government usually announces its budget once a year, laying out its plans for the nation's money will be spent in the coming months.

All of the allocations are worked out by the chancellor of the exchequer, which is currently Hammond, and the Treasury.

Hammond claimed his overall focus for the latest budget was to alleviate the "frustration of families where real incomes are under pressure".

And while this led to disappointment for design bodies, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has welcomed the announcement – because it will see £44 billion funnelled into housing, to help the government reach its target of delivering 300,000 new homes a year.

"I'm pleased and relieved that at a time of huge challenges and after weeks of speculation the chancellor has recognised the need for more radical action to address the housing crisis," said RIBA president Ben Derbyshire.

Derbyshire also praised plans to create a residential "corridor" between Cambridge and Oxford – creating one million new homes in the leading university region by 2050.

"The proposals for new garden towns, and investment in the Cambridge-Oxford-Milton Keynes corridor, must be used as an opportunity to promote good design and high-quality new homes that act as a beacon to other new developments," he said.

However, the RIBA president criticised the government's lack of ability to provide post-Brexit certainty for EU nationals working in architecture – who account for 33 per cent of employees in London studios, according to research conducted by Dezeen earlier this year.

"With the lack of clarity about Britain's future outside the EU continuing to hang over the head of the sector – from Europeans worried about whether they will be able to stay and deciding to leave, to not knowing what our future trade and customs relationship with the EU will be – the whole sector is unable to plan," he said.

"Delivering on the welcome policies that the chancellor has outlined to solve the housing crisis and get Britain building will need a confident architecture sector which can continue to rely on the best available talent from around the world and which has the certainty it needs to make long-term decisions."