Here’s to the PLR – a great (and now late) quango

The air will soon be think with the sound of special pleading as George “Cat-Skinner” Osborne goes about his devilish work. On the whole, people accept the idea of public expenditure cuts in general; it is only when they get nicked or chopped by the axe that they become less enthusiastic.

Here is my heartfelt contribution. The closing, announced last week, of the body which runs the Public Lending Right was petty and idiotic. A small organisation which oversees the distribution of  money paid to authors for library borrowings, the PLR has managed not only to be quietly efficient but to treat each of its unruly flock of over 23,000 recipients with decency and kindness. For us, it represents the human face of officialdom.

It is effective, never wastes money on promoting itself, and is entirely apolitical.

So, off with its head. Ed Vaizey, the culture secretary, has give a vague, unspecific commitment that it will be subsumed into another, presumably bigger, department. Authors know that once this efficient, independent organisation is swallowed into the great maw of Whitehall, the service – and the straightforward decency  – will soon be a distant memory.

Here was a quango that was an unqualified success. Authors, and indeed anyone who values the role of libraries and books in our culture, owe its small staff in Stockton a debt of gratitude for what it has done in the past.

It is bewildering, and a great, unnecessary shame, that they are to be one of the first victims of doctrinaire, slash-and-burn politics.