UK Music CEO Michael Dugher and Music Venue Trust chief Mark Davyd have accused Chancellor Philip Hammond of discriminating against music venues over business rates.
The move follows a letter from a Treasury official in December which said that – unlike bars and pubs – music venues would not be eligible to apply for a discount on their business rates.
Dugher and Davyd have written to the chancellor, accusing the Government of “discriminating by definition”, highlighting examples of the "unequal treatment" of the music industry under the current rating system. The pair quoted figures showing that 35% of grassroots music venues have shut in the past decade.
"The Government’s policy on business rates, as set out in the letter and accompanying guidance, is discriminatory towards grassroots music venues," they said. "It fails to acknowledge these venues are similar in nature to pubs and bars and that they should not be eligible for the retail business rates discount as a result.
“Bars, pubs and music venues have a number of obvious similarities: they are all customer focused experiences whose core business is to provide entertainment, food and drink for the benefit of patrons.
“We kindly ask that you change the guidance by stating that music venues are similar in nature to pubs and bars for the purposes of the scheme. If HM Treasury do not revisit this policy, your message to grassroots music venues is that if they wish to obtain similar tax advantages to other similar licensed premises, or even relief from additional taxes, they should turn off the music or close down.”
Dugher added: “The Treasury is discriminating by definition against music venues. If the Treasury does not revisit this policy, its message to grassroots music venues is that if they wish to obtain tax advantages, or even relief from additional taxes, they should turn off the music or close down.”
Davyd said it was a "perfect opportunity" for the Government to take action on the challenges faced by grassroots music venues.
“At the moment, that opportunity has been missed because government has not still not fully understood the social, cultural and economic importance of these venues and the serious threat posed by their loss right across the UK," he said. "That error can be corrected with a simple update to the guidance and we strongly urge the Chancellor to think again.”