Archived news: 23 November 2011
Nicola Solomon, our General Secretary, has written to the Head of Libraries at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Wendy Shales, to respond to the consultation letter on the PLR Rate Per Loan for 2012.
2012 PLR News
2011 PLR News
Under the Spending Review, PLR is to be reduced over the next four years. The annual figures are as follows:
While any reduction in spending on PLR is much to be regretted, it appears that PLR has fared relatively well, certainly compared with many other organisations sponsored by the Department for Culture Media and Sport whose budget is to fall by 25% by 2014/15. It appears that Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State, has heeded the representations made to him by the Society and other organisations. He has recognised that PLR is a legal right and is one of the Department’s ‘front line’ services.
While we are all in favour of cutting costs where possible, we remain opposed to the government's strange proposal that PLR should be transferred to another body (see below), as we do not see that any savings will be achieved. Indeed, the transfer of PLR to another organisation would almost certainly add to the running costs.
The transfer of PLR to 'another body'
On 14th October 2010 we were informed by the Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey, that as part of the government's aim of reducing the number of arm's-length public bodies, the statutory function of distributing PLR is to be ‘transferred to another existing body, effectively abolishing PLR as a separate organisation’.
- The full text of Ed Vaizey's letter can be seen by clicking here.
The announcement was worrying, perplexing and extraordinarily vague. We have been meeting officials in the Department.
The abolition of many arm's length public bodies is said to be motivated by the government’s desire to ‘increase transparency, accountability and efficiency’. At this stage it is hard to know what impact, if any, the change will have on the day to day management of PLR, so competently run by the Registrar Jim Parker and his small staff (of 9). It seems extremely improbable that the administration of PLR could be run more efficiently or more economically than it is now.
The PLR Office has already cut its costs very substantially and moving the management of PLR under the auspices of another organisation is going to add to costs. Furthermore, the Registrar is directly accountable to the Secretary of State as things stand. If these new arrangements – whatever they may be - are implemented there would be a dilution of the Registrar’s accountability. The proposed ‘transfer’ of PLR to ‘another existing body’ appears to have been prompted solely by the government’s desire to add to its list of organisations to be abolished.
The Minister reassures us that the body taking over the supervision of PLR will remain independent of government and that, as a condition of the transfer, the new body - rumoured to be the British Library - will be required to ‘ring fence’ the PLR allocation.
Our President, P. D. James, received the following letter from Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, in response to the Society's representations to the Government about the funding of PLR.
Letter from Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport
Dear Baroness James,
Thank you for your letter of 8 September about the Public Lending Right (PLR) enclosing a statement to which a number of authors have added their names.
I fully recognize the tremendous cultural, artistic and economic impact of writers in the UK and the Department understands the importance of the PLR to writers in this country.
As you know the Department must contribute to Government savings in order to address the financial deficit, and the wider cultural sector has a role towards this difficult end. Wherever possible we will find savings through administrative efficiencies, which is the best way to minimise the direct impact upon practitioners such as writers who deliver culture on the frontline.
However, Government will not be able to make announcements about the Department's funding for the PLR until the outcome of the spending review is announced in the autumn.
Press release: Authors call on the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, to spare book lending funding from further cuts
Over 4,000 authors have now signed a statement urging the Government to maintain the current level of funding for Public Lending Right (PLR) in the forthcoming Spending Review. The petition, instigated by the Society of Authors and supported by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and the Royal Society of Literature, is being drawn to the attention of Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, today.
The Public Lending Right scheme provides authors with a modest payment – currently 6p - each time one of their books is borrowed from a public library. PLR is designed to balance the social need for free public access to books against an author’s right to be remunerated for the use of their work. Individual PLR payments are capped in order to benefit those most in need; many elderly writers whose books are no longer in print rely on their annual PLR payments, which they see as a form of pension. Although PLR is a legal right rather than a grant or subsidy, its funding has already been subject to significant cuts in the last three years amounting to over 10% in real terms.
Crime writer and President of the Society of Authors, PD James, has written to Jeremy Hunt drawing attention to the petition, which has been signed by such well-known authors as Alan Ayckbourn, Iain Banks, Raymond Briggs, AS Byatt, Wendy Cope, Margaret Drabble, Helen Dunmore, Stella Duffy, Antonia Fraser, Joanne Harris, Seamus Heaney, Tom Holland, Doris Lessing, Ruth Padel,
Phillip Pullman, Ali Smith, Joanna Trollope, Minette Walters, Sarah Waters and Jacqueline Wilson amongst others. The text of Baroness James’s letter is given below.
Mark Le Fanu, General Secretary of the Society of Authors, said:
“Authors are proud of Britain’s Public Lending Right scheme, which is internationally admired and very tightly run. It provides them with modest payments when their books are borrowed. The funding has already been cut back. Authors are anxious that it should not be reduced still further.”
The petition, with the full list of signatories, can be viewed at www.alcs.co.uk/petition. This petition is also supported by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and the British Copyright Council (BCC).
Text of Baroness James’ letter to Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport
As you are probably aware, there is great anxiety among writers about PLR funding, which they feel should be maintained at its present level (or thereabouts) in the Spending Review. We think it important to recognise that PLR has been operating with reduced budgets over the past three years, while public expenditure generally has been rising. PLR is a statutory right, very efficiently and economically managed by a tiny staff. Authors greatly value the modest income they receive when their books are read by library users free of charge. Many writers whose books are no longer in print rely on their annual PLR payments which they see as a form of pension.
In order to test our impression that writers are hugely supportive of Britain’s exemplary PLR system, The Society of Authors, the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and the Royal Society of Literature asked members to consider adding their names to a short statement, which is attached to this letter. In a matter of days over 4,000 did so, including, as you will see, many of this country’s most eminent writers.
The Spending Review is clearly going to present the Department with some difficult choices. We ask you to take into account that PLR is a legal right rather than a grant or subsidy, that it has already been reduced significantly and that it is a vital ‘front line’ service on which authors depend.
Text of Authors' Statement on PLR
The Public Lending Right scheme, under which authors receive 6p when a book is borrowed from a public library, is funded by the Department for Culture Media and Sport. Over the last three years, while public spending has been buoyant, PLR’s allocation has fallen by 3%: over 10% in real terms.
While accepting that DCMS has been instructed to reduce its budget, we ask the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, to recognise that the £7.5m spent on PLR gives effect to a legal right and is not a subsidy. It provides working writers with a modest income when their books are read by library users free of charge. PLR is particularly important to authors whose books are sold mainly to libraries and to those whose books are no longer in print but are still being used.
Press coverage tends to focus on a few successful authors, yet most struggle to make ends meet. PLR provides a significant and much-valued part of authors’ incomes. The £6,600 upper limit ensures that the fund helps those most in need.
The admirably efficient PLR Office has already cut its running costs very substantially. Any reduction in PLR will have an immediate and detrimental effect on the ‘front line’ payments to authors.