24 September 2020
The Society of Authors has submitted a package of measures to Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP, ahead of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) consultation deadline today (24 September 2020).
The four-year CSR, which was due to accompany the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget, was widely expected to set Government budgets for the years 2021/22 to 2023/24.
However, following the Chancellor’s cancellation of his Autumn Budget yesterday afternoon (23 September 2020) less than 24 hours before the CSR consultation deadline, a further emergency package of financial measures – the Winter Economy Plan – is now expected by the Chancellor later today, calling into question whether November’s CSR will now also be delayed.
This is the second time in 12 months that a Budget has been delayed, with Sunak’s predecessor, Sajid Javid MP, cancelling the Budget in November 2019 ahead of last December’s snap General Election.
The November 2020 Budget had also expected to include the longer-term CSR, effectively setting Government spending levels to the end of the Parliament. There is still likely to be a review in the Autumn, but it is now more likely to be in the form of a year-long extension plan until Treasury tax and spending plans can be set next year.
The SoA’s Six-Point Plan for Authors reflects subjects on which we have long campaigned as well as more recent concerns revealed in our Authors in the Health Crisis survey data.
The submission, worked up alongside the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and the Publishers Association, can be found in full here and asks the Government to introduce:
- More targeted financial support for self-employed authors and creative professionals following the end to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme;
- A significant increase in funding for the UK’s Public Lending Right (PLR) to match Germany’s;
- An end to VAT on audiobooks following the success of the Axe the Reading Tax in securing zero-rating on ebooks from 1 May 2020;
- A dedicated Learning Resource Fund for schools to ensure that teachers can invest in fresh learning materials suitable for both in-class and home-school learning during the public health crisis;
- Improvements to learning resource funding for Higher Education students following estimates by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that Universities could lose up to half their income in the wake of COVID-19; and
- Support for our Authors’ Emergency Fund, which has helped over 1,000 authors facing financial hardship since the coronavirus outbreak.
Discussing the SoA’s Six-Point Plan for Authors, Chief Executive Nicola Solomon, said:
This is an important package of measures that was originally designed to inform the Government’s policymaking and spending priorities to 2024.
In addition to the targeted furlough scheme that we expect the Chancellor to make in his Winter Economy Plan, it is vital that the Government also rectifies the shortcomings in its Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, which left too many of our members without meaningful – if any – financial support.
Alongside this critical financial help, we are also calling on Government to support our Authors Emergency Fund to enable us to continue providing financial support to authors in financial need.
We are also asking the Government to ringfence and increase Public Lending Right funding to ensure that authors are rewarded when their books, whether physical, ebooks or audio are borrowed from public libraries.
Government must now provide a lead on both PLR and Education funding so that teachers, pupils and readers can have full access to the excellent materials provided by our members – and our members can be properly paid so they can continue producing world-class education materials.
We are also asking the Chancellor to tie off the loose end from his March 2020 budget and exempt audiobooks from VAT to ensure that they are treated in the same way as ebooks and physical books.
I am pleased that the SoA has worked closely with ALCS and the Publishers Association in putting these proposals together and we will continue to press the case for them in the coming weeks.