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Tiga "disappointed" by Budget snub

Ignoring games industry represents "missed opportunity" according to CEO Richard Wilson

Richard Wilson, CEO of Tiga, has labelled the Government's Budget a "missed opportunity" and expressed puzzlement as to why tax breaks for games production haven't been adopted.

"At the time when the Government is spending GBP 671 billion in the current financial year it couldn't find 150 million over five years to invest in a tax break for games production," he told GamesIndustry.biz. "I have to say that's pretty disappointing."

Today's Budget was unveiled without any mention of incentives for videogames production, despite an insistent letter campaign and negotiations started by Tiga on behalf of the games industry, which Wilson described as unacceptable.

"When you look at Government expenditure it's pretty awful, the Government's going to be spending GBP 28 billion on debt interest, which is GBP 8 billion pounds more than its spending on all of industry, employment and training," he explained. "It's pretty disappointing from the broad perspective of the games industry."

However, the head of the developer's trade body admitted there might be some helpful measures in the Budget.

"There are two things which I think are more positive," he said, explaining: "The first thing is that the Government is investing GBP 750 million in their strategic investment fund. I haven't seen the details of that but if some of that money is made available to small and medium sized enterprises in the games sector that would be encouraging and I would applaud that. Particularly if it's used in the form of investment finance for small and start-up businesses.

"Additionally, the GBP 250 million that's being allocated to help people get work experience in growth industries might be helpful - again it depends on the details but if it enables games businesses to give school people work experience then that can only be a good.

"One of the things Tiga has argued for over the past 14 months is for the Government to encourage and enable games businesses to offer education outreach programs to schools and colleges and to try and get students who might have an interest in [producing] games to actually experience that in a real life setting."

He added: "I just think it's a shame; it's a tragedy that the government can't, or chooses not to find, a small sum of GBP 150 million in five years for tax break in games production."

In reaction to the recent IMF report that predicted the UK's economy will shrink 4.1 per cent in 2009, Wilson described the Budget as a "missed opportunity" to "back a winner."

"NESTA put out a couple of documents recently in which they encouraged the Government to invest in growth industries. From a very elementary point of view, the government at this time should be backing those industries that are succeeding not industries of the past."

Wilson continued: "We know we have a competitive advantage in games production, we know we'd be even more competitive with a tax break on games production. So, it is a missed opportunity. I think it's a shame.

"On the key issue of tax competition and the key issue of structuring the tax system to help our industries be more successful in the future the Government has once again missed a trick."

Tiga's campaign to highlight the importance of the industry to the economy had been a success, according to Wilson, who was at a loss of words to explain why the Government failed to support tax breaks.

"I think the Government is very aware now of the importance of our industry. I think they do recognise that. But for some reason there seems to be another leap that they're not prepared to make and I can't explain it," he said.

"It's not because of the economic reasons because I think we've put out a very strong case over the last year about how important our sector is and the potential for the future but the government isn't making that next step - to back a winner."

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James Lee