Spring Budget – what does this mean for local theatre?

26th March 2024

The Spring Budget was announced earlier this month, with a ‘game-changing’ boost to the arts industry. But was everyone a winner?

On 6th March 2024, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced, ‘over £1 billion of new tax reliefs for the UK’s world-leading creative industries’ over the next five years, to boost investment and ‘further strengthen the UK’s cultural sector’, and ‘continue the government’s support for world-class productions.

This result means that from 1st April 2025 tax rates for theatres and touring/non-touring productions will be permanently set at 45%/40%, instead of the pre-pandemic rates of 25%/20%. This will mean bigger productions, an increase in touring, more job opportunities within the industry, and of course economic growth. A great result and a huge step in the right direction.

SOLT and UK Theatre have been fighting for this tax relief since 2021 when the higher rate was introduced.  They understood and recognised the high tax relief ‘turbo-charged’ the industry's return following the pandemic. They campaigned to ‘maintain the Theatre Tax Relief at the higher rate of 50/45% in perpetuity or at least until April 2027’ but following the amazing result, we think they have exceeded their expectations!

The Chancellor also announced some new investments in culture around the UK, including:

  • The National Theatre will receive £26.4 million to upgrade its stages and infrastructure.
  • Theatr Clwyd in Wales will receive £1.6 million, subject to business case approval.
  • Nationally significant culture projects across Great Britain’ that have not previously gained from the Government ‘levelling up’ funding. £100m will go to projects, including the British Library North, National Railway Museum and National Museums Liverpool, plus £10m for the West Midlands, and £10m for Perth and Dunfermline venues.

All are great investments that help to highlight theatre and cultures "vital importance to our national life" – according to Hunt.

But what about the smaller communities that require funding? Many councils are already struggling with some on the brink of bankruptcy. They are having to make the difficult decisions of prioritising spend, and sadly it seems that the arts budget is always the one to get cut first.

Our communities are already suffering. Theatre and the arts bring so much value to our local areas. Having access to the arts is absolutely vital to us all, particularly from a young age. It enriches our lives – with incredible entertainment, storytelling, music, costumes, hope, escapism, joy, colour, magic, stress relief - we can’t take that for granted.

Lovers of the arts don’t just have to come to theatre or museums to get their culture fill. You can pick up a book at home, listen to music or watch a series on TV or Netflix. These days everything has moved online, so getting your hands on some form of art is easy.

There’s not just the health and well-being aspects, there’s also education, society, and economic benefits, where we can grow as people, tell stories from within our society and help boost our local economy.

It seems that the government forget that the arts play a huge role in bringing around £18.3bn to the UK economy each year. Yet still we constantly find ourselves on their budget cuts list.

Local arts funding is in crisis with further cuts potentially on the horizon and there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of support for local theatre makers.

So, what can we do? We need to keep fighting for our place on the stage. We need to continue putting on performances and getting our voices heard. We need to speak up for our local authorities and the important role in arts funding - culture needs to be at the heart of every community, we can’t give up.

We made it through the pandemic, so we can make it through this. Arts are already being cut from curriculums; we can’t let that happen from within our communities too. Otherwise, where will the next generation of theatre makers come from? How will we keep telling our stories?

We welcome the changes that the government has announced, but we’re very uncomfortable and concerned about the future of the arts, our local venues, our freelancers and playwrights and how our work will be affected moving forward.

 At The Play’s The Thing, we will continue to shine a light on the arts. From taking women playwrights on tour, hosting inspirational events with key female theatre-makers to working with the next generation of artists and producing fantastic community theatre - we’ll never stop.