Truss urged to invest in libraries and scrap audiobook tax | Editing

New Prime Minister Liz Truss should scrap “the last remaining reading tax”, guarantee schools funding for author visits and invest in libraries, authors and publishers say.

Truss officially became the UK’s new Prime Minister yesterday after meeting the Queen at Balmoral.

Michelle Donelan has been named Truss’ Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Nadine Dorries, who was appointed Culture Secretary by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was offered the chance to stay on but decided to quit and return to the back benches.

With the cost of living crisis taking hold, the publishing industry hopes Truss and his government will put in place a series of measures to ensure that people from all walks of life can easily access books.

Dan Conway, CEO of trade organization Publishers Association, said “top of the list is removing VAT on audiobooks”, which he described as the “last remaining tax on reading”.

“The government has taken the very welcome decision to zero-rate other digital publications, including e-books in 2020, and has repeatedly recognized that reading and knowledge should not be taxed,” he continued. . “Audiobooks are the fastest growing format, they are accessible and appeal to readers who may not be interested in other types of books. Getting rid of this last anomaly would be the right thing to do. TO DO.

Conway wrote to Truss and fellow leadership candidate Rishi Sunak last week, asking them to commit to a number of commitments “to ensure the continued economic, cultural and social contribution of the UK industry to ‘leading edition’.

Libraries must also be high on the government’s agenda, according to current Waterstones for Children winner Joseph Coelho.

“School libraries provide essential access to books, especially for children who may not have books at home,” he said. Coelho had seen firsthand how public libraries, which he described as “magical spaces,” can “bring communities together, providing opportunities for growth and learning,” he explained.

“I would like libraries to be valued and given the support they need both publicly and in the school setting,” he continued.

Nick Poole, CEO of CILIP, the UK Library and Information Association, said Truss needed to “invest in a UK-wide program of building new libraries and redevelopment of existing library branches to meet the current and future needs of communities around the world”.

“Libraries boost reading, literacy and digital skills, drive local economic recovery and have a powerful impact on education, health and jobs,” he said. “What better way to help the UK bounce back and build a better future than by building life-changing libraries on every high street?”

Children’s author Tony Bradman, who is chairman of the board of directors of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), said the government must support author visits to schools to create “the next generation of readers”.

“School visits are extremely valuable for getting young people more involved in reading, and they’re essential for authors to connect with their readers,” he said. “When these visits were not possible during the pandemic, it destroyed the livelihoods of many children’s authors.

“We hope that in the event of a cost-of-living crisis, schools will not have to consider cutting these visits, as this will make things worse for children and children’s authors. We hope the Prime Minister’s government can ensure schools have funding for book tours.

Barbara Hayes, Deputy CEO of ALCS, who described the “creative sector [as] one of the UK’s great success stories”, said she wanted the focus to be on bookshops, which are “vital for readers and writers alike”.

“We are calling for significant reforms to protect the sustainability of our main streets as a whole in the face of online competition, to ensure that small local businesses such as bookstores can continue to thrive,” she added.

James Daunt, chief executive of Waterstones, wants Truss and his government to introduce an online sales tax, which could then be used to lower commercial rates at retail stores.

“It will keep more stores open, support local communities with jobs where they are needed most, and also bring down prices in those stores,” he said. “Ignoring online sales and only taxing physical stores is both unfair and highly regressive in its impacts.”