The Creative Society is an arts employment charity that helps young people into jobs in the creative and cultural industries.
How was it for you? If you are young and unemployed, or an unpaid intern, a measured cheer is in order in response to the Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Report. If you are a banker, there’ll be fewer glasses of champagne this Christmas but you really can’t complain at having to pay a bit of tax on your bonuses. Though no doubt some will. It has been entertaining to watch Tories and City folk scrabbling around for appropriate soundbites on what was wrong with Alistair Darling’s pre-budget report.
The shouting earlier this week had all been directed at the need for cuts, the danger of frightening off our talented bankers (where were they thinking of going? Dubai?). But, in the event, the tax on bonuses, pitched to kick in rather lower than many expected and the inevitable but delayed public sector cuts had not, as I write, sent sterling reeling or the stock exchange into meltdown. Yes, we should fear public sector cuts to come, particularly if, when the detail becomes known, the arts and culture sector are seen as easy prey. But the good news is that this was a PBR intended to protect employment. Safeguarding jobs, and particularly jobs for the young, remain high on Labour’s agenda.
Darling improved on his earlier commitment that the under 24s would be guaranteed work after a year by undertaking that from next month no-one under-24 needs to be unemployed for longer than six months. Within minutes of standing up, the Chancellor announced new money for the young unemployed and made clear, as we have been arguing here, that to promote future growth.
“We need to invest in the skills of young people to prevent a lost generation of youth unemployment.”
This turned out not to be mere rhetoric. Though details are due to be announced shortly, along with the Department of Work and Pensions white paper, Darling announced particular support for graduates from low-income backgrounds, and said he wanted “to break down informal barriers which close off some careers to undergraduates from poorer backgrounds.”
“I can announce we will offer financial support for up to 10,000 undergraduates from low-income backgrounds to take up short internships in industry, business and the professions. This will give them a taste of careers which they may not otherwise have considered.”
In other words, he intends to tackle directly the system which we see all too often in the media and creative industries whereby the sons and daughters of existing employees get invaluable, unpaid, experience, while those who cannot live without some income end up on the dole. NDotM will press for the cultural industries to receive their fair share of this support.
Now that the shouting is over, it’s interesting to note one lone voice of calm urging the Chancellor to hold off on swingeing cuts. In the letters page of the Financial Times, 12 economics professors urged the Chancellor not to undermine recovery with cuts. Spending cuts would ultimately damage public finances further, they argued. What improvement in the economy there has been so far had been directly due to government’s active support for employment, they wrote. We should, they insisted, be far more concerned about deepening unemployment than about possible inflationary pressure.
Darling has heeded this advice – more likely, he always intended to follow that path anyway. But why are the dire prognostications of thinktanks such as Reform (calling for health and social service cuts of around a million public sector jobs) given such widespread press coverage while the quieter deliberations of highly respected academics such as David Blanchflower and Richard Freeman go unreported.
We will be looking at the Back to Work DWP report shortly, expected to include a firm programme of support for the self-employed.