Extraordinary sweeping budget cuts announced today by the Treasury are threatening a number of game trade groups dotted across the UK.
The enormity of the challenge facing the Lib-Con coalition – which has inherited a £163 billion budget deficit – is now being put into bleak perspective by the brutality of the government’s plan to balance the books.
Today, Chancellor George Osborne confirmed he would withdraw £270 million of the public’s money on Regional Development Agencies (RDAs).
Four of Britain’s nine RDAs have connections with the game industry.
• Yorkshire Forward funds Screen Yorkshire, which in turn finances Game Republic – the association that funds studios and education programs in the region. Game Republic also promotes games in the region, and is also responsible for the annual State of Independence event in York.
• One North East funds Codeworks and that in turn finances Game Horizon – a leading trade event on the British game calendar.
• The East Midlands Development Agency has in the past provided funding for EM Media, which in turn is responsible for the EMMI fund that injects needed cash into local developers with, most recently, a £3.9 million war chest. EM Media says it is better protected from RDA cuts, however, as it raises funding from a variety of private sources.
• South East England Development Agency, meanwhile, is associated with the South East Media Network – which aids local developers and has Kuju’s Ian Baverstock a member of its board.
It is these four RDAs which, if hit by the drastic fund cuts, will make an immediate impact on the game industry.
The coalition government is taking a close look at all nine RDAs, focusing - for now, in private - on which should take the brunt of the £270 million funding cuts.
Last Thursday the Government revealed its coalition manifesto, which stated that it will “support the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships …to replace Regional Development Agencies”.
Since its publication it has been widely reported that some RDAs – particularly in the south of the UK – face complete closure. Senior Tory MP Kenneth Clarke recently triggered concerns by claiming that all RDAs were meaningless and shouldn’t be supported.
He said: "As they stand [now] they will go. If in the unlikely event that some localities want something on that regional scale they can have it because we are going to allow local leadership to say what they structure they’d like. But I do think in these difficult times that those RDA tower blocks with their large staff are going to have to go; it’s not the best way of delivering either business support or urban regeneration."
The Tory party made moves to distance itself from the claims.
Last week, business secretary Vince Cable is reported to have said RDAs in the south would be hardest hit.
A civil servant at the Business Department has since told Develop that the account is accurate, though claimed that the funding cuts will spread across all RDAs.
[Update] The Treasury and Business departments are not discussing which RDAs will take what portions of the £270 million cuts. One civil servant has said no specific targets will be announced for the next two weeks, at least.