Public Lending Right consultation closes 23/12/11
Defend your library money
IF YOU HAVE a book published, you are entitled by UK and EU law to a payment each time that book is lent by a library. This compensates you for the presumed reduction in sales, and therefore royalty payments.
Until now, this "Public Lending Right" has been administered by a remarkably efficient little office, staffed by twelve people in Stockton-on-Tees. But it's a quasi-non-governmental organisation, so the incoming coalition government announced that it had to go. At about the same time the coalition announced a cut in its budget from £7.58 million in 2009-10 to £6.956 million in 2014 - protesting that this would be dealt with by "efficiency" measures.
Now it seems that administration of PLR is likely to be handed to the British Library - which prompts the Freelance to ponder both the ethics of foxes in chicken-coops and their London living expenses. And the Department for Culture Media and Sport has launched a consultation on cutting the amounts paid to authors.
Their preferred proposal is to cut the payment per loan from 6.25p to 6.05p for the February 2012 payments. They present three possibilities, two of which the Freelance reads as "dummy proposals":
- A reduction to 6.05p per loan; or
- Reduce the maximum payable per author from £6600 to £5900; or
- Raise the threshold below which no payment is made from £1 to £45.
The deadline for responding to the consultation is 23 December. Below the Freelance presents one author's response as a model. Please do respond in your own words.
Dear Ms Smith,
You have invited responses to the proposals relating to Public Lending
Right, and the following are mine.
- Like many writers, I was both saddened and shocked by the proposal to
close the PLR office as a separate entity. The office has been for many
years a model of efficiency, friendliness and clarity in its dealings with
authors. Staff in Stockton-on-Tees have always been courteous and helpful,
going out of their way to assist authors at all times. Their website is
clear and easy to use, and their response to queries always prompt. The
first point I would like to make is that, if there is any way that the
office and its staff can be saved, I know that almost every author in the
country would be delighted.
- Your consultation document seems to be extraordinarily limited in its
range of proposals. Obviously, none of us want to see the rate per loan cut
and, given the very small sums of money involved, it is hard to see why this
along with the staff cuts in Stockton-on-Tees has ever been considered
necessary, even accepting the government's own analysis of the state of the
country's economy. So my second point is a plea to rethink the cuts in
funding to PLR in order to at least return it to last year's rate of 6.25
pence per loan, or something like it.
- However, given that the government seems determined to cut back on the
income of an already largely impoverished group of people, there does seem
to be some merit in the proposal to raise the limit at which payments are
made. The suggestion that this should be 45 pounds is, of course, ludicrous.
For many authors, even 20 pounds (especially in winter, and just after
Christmas) is a sum worth having but raising it to, say 5 pounds might
surely be worth considering. As you suggest, a cut of seven hundred pounds
in the upper limit would be draconian. You rightly point out that authors
currently in receipt of 6600 pounds or thereabouts from PLR are not
necessarily rich: many depend on this for a large part of a meagre income.
Perhaps a little more imagination could be applied to this issue?