ALCS expresses concerns for writers in response to Spring Statement

The Spring Statement 2022 has failed to offer the reassurance to authors and the writing sector that we had hoped for, with many still set to struggle in the face of the rises to the cost of living.

The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) is concerned on two fronts after the announcements from the Spring Statement; the lack of specific and true provision for the creative workforce, and the current economic circumstances squeezing people out of accessing culture in the UK.

Creative workforce

The creative industries are one of our most successful sectors in the UK, contributing over £115 billion to the GDP in 2019. Writers are central to this achievement, spanning across the sector from TV to theatre. Yet even before Covid, authors’ incomes had fallen 42% in real terms from 2005 to 2018.

In our submission, we offered targeted solutions for the Treasury to consider, including an increase to the overall pot of PLR, and to guarantee a reformulation of the business rates system. This would have helped to alleviate the strain on individual creators and the surrounding writing ecosystem of bookshops. We were disappointed to find neither were addressed, and that culture received no specific measures to help it through this difficult period.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies instead has found that in relation to public spending, the cash settlements agreed by each department with the Treasury in the Autumn budget are now worth less in real terms due to the higher rates of inflation. This means that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s budget from October has a decreased purchasing power to support the sector’s important work, and those employed by it.

Access to culture

The primary announcements aimed at working people in the UK, namely an increase in the threshold of National Insurance payments, will help to ease some pressure on individuals, but do not go far enough to combat the levels of inflation increasing to a thirty-year high of 6.2%. The OBR forecast details: “Real household disposable incomes per person fall by 2.2 per cent in 2022-23, the largest fall in a single financial year since ONS records began in 1956-57.”

ALCS has made the point in the past that with authors’ incomes reaching lows of a yearly average of £10,000, being a full-time writer is financially inaccessible to most. Now, with disposable income at a low and inflation increasing, households are not only squeezed out of creating, but also of consuming, culture, as they will not be in a position to spend on the likes of seeing a show or buying books.

The financial capabilities of families and individuals to afford consuming writing, whether that be in the form of literature from the local bookshop or at a playhouse, will shrink further across this next year. We had hoped that the Spring Statement would have done more to protect households and ensure that culture remain accessible to all, not just those with higher incomes.

The Levelling-Up White Paper put culture and place-making at its centre, but with the current lack of provisions to protect the sector, this puts fulfilling the Government’s plans at risk.

Barbara Hayes, Deputy Chief Executive of ALCS, commented: “We understand that given the current political circumstances, the Chancellor has taken a cautious approach to the country’s finances, however the rise in living costs domestically is going to have a detrimental impact on our members’ lives. Authors have taken dramatic hits to their earnings in the last decade, with our research showing general downward trends in incomes and the pandemic making writing an ever more precarious career financially.

The cut to fuel duty and the increased threshold for National Insurance payments will offer a small relief to both the creative workforce and businesses, but we had wished that the Government would take a more proactive approach in supporting culture, as we requested in our submission. Our writers and the surrounding ecosystem of libraries, bookshops and creative industries provide this country with a common cultural framework and often are integral to local communities around the UK which will be more important than ever with levelling-up. We hope this will be reflected in future economic decisions and we will continue to press this point with Government.”

Find out more about ALCS’ position in its Spring Statement submission