Support for authors: Take Action

18 January 2021

We are calling on ALCS members to contact their MPs to press for an increase to the Public Lending Right (PLR) fund as a way to provide improved support to the creative workforce particularly during these difficult times for the sector.

With writers’ and freelancers’ incomes acutely impacted due to the Covid-19 outbreak, many will have lost income streams and some will not have been adequately covered by the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). As a result, in the hopes the Government can do more to support our creative focus, we’re asking ALCS members to share our concerns and proposed amendment to the PLR scheme with their MPs.

Taking action is easy. All you have to do is visit members.parliament.uk, where you can search for your MP, find their email address and contact them directly by email using the following suggested text:

 

Dear <name of MP>,

I am writing to ask for your support for measures that would provide much-needed security for authors and writers like myself, many of whom are freelance and struggling like so many right now, despite contributing to our nation’s creative and cultural success.

Although the Job Retention and Self Employment Income Support Schemes (SEISS) have now been extended until April, many freelancers continue to fall between gaps. Some writers have not been able to claim fair or reasonable support from the SEISS because of gaps in their work due to caring responsibilities or maternity/paternity leave or because of legitimate but substantial expenses (such as one-off equipment costs). Newly self-employed people and those with both PAYE and self-employed work will continue to miss out on support. Eligibility for SEISS has stayed the same and, if people missed out at the start, they will again this year.

This is deeply unfair, therefore I would be very grateful if you would add your voice to calls by the DCMS and Treasury Select Committees – and by many MPs, cross-party – for the gaps for freelancers and their families to be addressed.

Secondly, I would also urge you to support an increase in funding for the Public Lending Right (PLR), which has been frozen for years. PLR is a simple and effective way in which the Government can support writers through these difficult times and do it fairly, in a targeted way at modest cost. PLR is a system based on library book loans and remunerates authors and other contributors up to strict maximum of £6,600 a year, which most by no means reach. The scheme ensures that funds reach a wide range of authors, beyond top-sellers, which is very important if we want also to encourage diversity in writing.

Writers are central to the success of all our creative industries, yet even before the current crisis, research by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) showed that authors’ incomes fell 42% in real terms from 2006 to 2018. With Covid, this has been exacerbated; something I can testify to personally. Surveys by the Society of Authors estimate, indeed, that 57% of us have seen incomes decline during the pandemic, with more affected with each passing month.

As it is, the size of the PLR fund is relatively small and it has not increased for 10 years. While in the UK it pays authors a share of £6 million a year, writers in France and Germany receive £13 million and £14 million from their PLR funds.

The payment per book loan for PLR has risen slightly this year, but this is only a reflection of how the growing shift to community-run libraries has excluded many from being counted, despite offering the same benefit to the public.
I hope this will encourage you to support us and ask the Government to increase the PLR fund and ‘ring-fence’ it on behalf of writers like myself, who contribute to the public good – not least through our libraries – and would like to be able to make a living from our work, to keep on creating.

If you would forward my letter, as a constituent, to the Secretary of State for DCMS, asking him to make representations to the Chancellor about the gaps in SEISS and a ‘levelling up’ of PLR funding on our behalf, I would be very grateful.

Many thanks and yours sincerely


MPs receive a lot of correspondence, especially during this difficult time, so we suggest personalising the template provided in order to make it as impactful as possible.

If you have any further questions, please email advocacy@alcs.co.uk.