ALCS Autumn Spending Review Submission

04 October 2021

ALCS calls on Chancellor to support authors with four recommendations for the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Treasury will be announcing the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review on 27 October 2021 which will detail upcoming economic measures for the country as we move out of the pandemic.

The past year has been incredibly challenging for the creative workforce for a multitude of reasons: cancellation of author events, lack of understanding of the complexity of self-employed work, the reduction in publishing commissions and more. Taking all this into consideration, ALCS has made a submission to the Chancellor on behalf of our members, putting forward four requests that we believe will allow authors to carry on creating work whilst being fairly remunerated for it.

Increase the PLR fund

We have asked for an increase to the overall fund for Public Lending Right which is an ideal way for the Government to offer authors support. It allows for a fair and targeted approach to be taken through an already existing mechanism. The fund is relatively modest, frozen at £6 million since 2015, especially in comparison with countries like France whose PLR fund is just over double that at £13 million. We believe it’s time the Treasury increased this vital revenue stream for authors to reflect the value that they contribute to UK culture.

Reform Business Rates to support bookshops

A strong supply chain from publisher to retailer allows a variety of diverse authors and works to reach readers. We’re asking the Treasury to reform the Business Rates system for retailers, ensuring that independent and high street bookshops survive when the relief scheme comes to an end in May 2022. Bookshops play an essential role in promoting different kinds of writers and works as well as bringing value to local communities by hosting live events. We would like the Government to recognise this importance by introducing a fair and modern Business Rates system.

Remove VAT on audiobooks

In last year’s Spring Budget, we were pleased that the Chancellor announced a zero rate VAT on ebooks. ALCS would like to see this policy extended to include audiobooks, continuing to make literature in all its forms accessible to everyone. There has been a sharp rise in the popularity of audiobooks and we believe this step needs to be taken in the Autumn Spending Review to ensure audiobooks are available at a reasonable price for all.

Establish a Creators Council

Finally, a fundamental issue our members experienced during the pandemic was a lack of access to Government support. Despite the various financial schemes put in place, fewer than 30% of writers qualified for emergency measures. We’re asking the Treasury to support a Creators Council which will open up a channel of communication between Government and the creative workforce. This will allow the Treasury to have a greater understanding of creators’ portfolio careers and how to be inclusive of all workers in future tax and fiscal policy.

Barbara Hayes, Deputy Chief CEO, commented:

“Our members have struggled over the past year to make a reasonable and sustainable living. We have already lost writers who were unable to sustain their careers under the pressure of the pandemic and we are now at risk of jeopardizing the talent pipeline as individuals will not see being an author as a viable career option.
We hope that with the four measures suggested in our submission, the Treasury will be able to relieve some of this pressure and to put in place longer term sustainable initiatives to support writers as we move into the recovery phase. Authors are central to the cultural makeup of the UK and have an impact on our standing in the global community. It is vital for the Government to show that they understand this.”

Our full submission can be found here