Ed Vaizey, the shadow arts minister, has come out in support of the UK Film Council just weeks after Conservative leader David Cameron called for unelected quangos to be scaled back to save money.
In contrast, Vaizey said the UKFC could continue to play a vital role in the industry with an extended remit – potentially including the video games industry - but on a tighter budget. He added: “Most of the film industry is supportive of the UK Film Council. There is a new chairman [Tim Bevan] and I would work with him if I got the chance.”
Cameron called for the number of quangos to be reduced, including media regulator Ofcom, which is due to play a vital role in policing digital piracy, although he did not specifically single out the UKFC.
But while Vaizey was keen to show his support for the UKFC, he would not be drawn on the Tory plans for the film industry tax credit. Vaizey said: “We were aware from the start that it would be a problem.”
The system, which was introduced in the UK, has been widely criticised because it does not apply to equipment bought in the UK or to British crews or talent working abroad but being paid in the UK, although it is acknowledged that it does work well for films shot in the UK that have passed the cultural test.
However, the tax credit has been blamed for a drop in co-productions, which fell by 78% over the first half of this year, according to figures from the UKFC.
A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport defended the scheme saying that the fall in co-productions was caused by a number of issues. He said: “The drop in co-productions over the last few years follows an uncharacteristic spike in the early 2000’s, and could relate to a number of factors, not least the current condition of the economy.”
Vaizey said that if the Conservatives win the next election he would look at the tax credit to see if restructuring it would be “worth the hassle”, and whether it would be passed by the European Union.“We might have to take the view that a half-working tax credit is better than none at all.”