LONDON, Oct. 27, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Today's Budget and Spending Review provides a welcome boost to the recovery package for cultural institutions, a raft of measures to ease the impact of rises in the cost of living and much-needed relief on business rates for the High Street. However, the Government has missed an opportunity to enhance targeted support for writers in the creative workforce by not increasing funding for schemes such as the Public Lending Right.
The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) recognises the important economic and social value that small businesses, such as high street bookshops, provide to their local communities and how vital they are in supporting a healthy book market (as we highlighted in our Treasury submission).
We are pleased, therefore, at the announcement of a "Modern business rates system" which we called for and will go a long way towards supporting the general recovery of the High Street. Moreover, we are encouraged by the provisions set out by the Chancellor to provide a temporary business rates relief of a minimum of 50% for 2022-23, which will aid small businesses in the short term to further recover from the pandemic.
We hope these reforms to business rates will help bookshops across the country, which are vital in ensuring a diverse range of books are published and bought by the public. These stand at an unsustainable disadvantage to online retailers, who pay substantially less in business rates and corporation tax. We will consult with the Government further, therefore, over the Treasury's exploration of arguments for and against a UK-wide Online Sales Tax, which would help to even the playing field between high street and online retailers.
We also welcome the announcement of a further £850 million in restoration and upgrade funding for UK cultural institutions such as theatres and galleries. We recognise the value these buildings hold to communities and the need for investment in cultural venues around the country.
Regrettably, though, this type of institutional funding has failed to make it to authors in a meaningful way in the past, as little has been allocated to the literary field specifically. We have seen how such recovery packages, in most instances, do not reach creative freelancers in the workforce and are disappointed that no measures were announced to help such a vital aspect of our creative and cultural sectors, as during this time of recovery.
However, we are encouraged to learn that part of this funding will go to libraries across the UK, which will be able to apply to a communal pot of £110 million to receive grants. In ALCS's spending review submission, we highlighted the importance of libraries and the Public Lending Right (PLR) scheme, which remunerates authors for loans of their books and provides valuable support for the literary sector.
It is disappointing that the Treasury has not responded to our repeated calls to increase the overall pot for PLR, as it would have been a simple and targeted way to help writers during a time when their incomes have suffered greatly. According to surveys conducted by the Society of Authors, 65% of writers had lost income during the first half of the pandemic, a situation which has continued since. The 'portfolio' nature of authors' careers has made them particularly vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19 and it is important for the Government to show its support to this vital part of the creative workforce, who contribute of course to television, film and theatre, too.
The overall PLR fund has been frozen for many years and stands at half the level in comparison to countries such as Germany and France. ALCS had hoped the Treasury would acknowledge that an overall increase to PLR would be a perfect opportunity to support the contribution of UK authors who fall outside the best-seller group.
Barbara Hayes, Deputy Chief Executive of ALCS, commented:
"We are delighted to see our calls to support high street bookshops through a change to business rates have been accepted by the Treasury in the form of a temporary relief of a minimum of 50% for 2022-23, this will aid small businesses in the short term to further recover from the pandemic. Bookshops are vital in supporting a healthy supply chain in the book market, so we are pleased at the announcement of a "Modern business rates system" which will be in fitting with the Governments initiative to level-up and support high street revival across the UK.
We are disappointed that targeted and effective support for writers, such as an increase to the overall PLR fund, have not been introduced today. Authors contribute right across the whole creative and cultural sectors, from playwrights to academics to novelists. We hoped the Treasury would acknowledge the contributions made by our members to the successful creative economy, both domestically and internationally, but will carry on engaging with the Government on these issues."
About the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS)
ALCS is a not-for-profit organisation that benefits of all kinds of writers and currently has over 110,000 members. It collects and distributes money due for licensed secondary uses of authors' works in the UK and internationally and, at Westminster, is proud to provide support for the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group (APWG).
About Public Lending Right (PLR)
PLR pays authors based on public library use of their books, up to a strict maximum (£6,600 in previous years), the scheme ensures that funds reach a wide range of authors, beyond 'top-sellers'. As it is, the size of the PLR fund is relatively small and has not increased for years. At £6 million, net of administration costs, it compares with £14m annually in Germany, £13m in France, £16m in Sweden and £8m even in Finland (which possesses less than 10% of the UK's population).