PA issues demands to government on Covid-19 crisis

PA issues demands to government on Covid-19 crisis

The Publishers Association says it is pushing for publishing to be included in the business rates holiday, and for there to be part-time furloughing, among a number of demands for government to help the industry deal with the “unprecedented challenge” of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a blog for The Bookseller,  PA c.e.o. Stephen Lotinga said, following a survey and discussions with members, the organisation had drawn up a five-point list of measures that would help the trade.

One of those is for publishers to be included in the Chancellor's business rates holiday because of the disruption caused by bookshop and distribution centre closures during the lockdown. Currently only businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure industries are eligible for the 12-month exemption.

Lotinga said: “Publishers are directly involved in the retail of books but are not currently eligible for this rate relief and we believe this should change.”

He also called for the interest-free period of the Treasury's business interruption loans to be extended to two years, instead of one. He said that would provide “breathing space” for an industry unlikely to see the true impact of Covid-19 until three to six months down the line.

Since the crisis took hold, larger publishing firms have taken advantage of the government's furlough scheme. However, Lotinga warned many small presses were unable to take advantage because they had few staff and lots of work to get through.

He added: “Moreover, a significant proportion of their overhead expenditure is in preparation for 2021 and 2022; to drastically reduce their workforce at this time would therefore cause long-term damage to businesses. Publishers need more support to keep staff employed and working, though at a lower level. As such, we urge the government to introduce further economic support measures to allow employers to reduce full-time staff to part-time working hours, as an alternative to furloughing employees altogether.”

The PA has also called for “clarity” on supply chain workers, warning weeks of disruption and the prospect of more ahead had left the industry concerned for its future solvency.

Finally, the association turned its attention to education, asking the government to make sure schools, colleges and universities have adequate funds to transition to home learning.

Lotinga wrote: “Publishers are making significant discounts to these products to help schools make the purchases that are needed, but targeted funding would go a long way to help adequately equip learners from all backgrounds. Digital infrastructure will be key to ensuring continuity in our education system, along with funding for the physical resources that are better suited to households without adequate access to devices or internet connectivity."

He concluded on a note of optimism, saying: "Publishing is an industry with a very long history, and we have of course survived many crises before. I have no doubt that we will come through this and continue to thrive. We at the Publishers Association will do everything in our power to help."