Cross-party plea to end business rates 'discrimination' against grassroots venues

Cross-party plea to end business rates 'discrimination' against grassroots venues

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Music has called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to use his Spring Statement to ensure music venues benefit from the new business rates retail discount scheme.

The cross-party group of 59 MPs and peers includes shadow culture secretary Tom Watson, former Conservative culture minister Ed Vaizey, Baroness Bonham-Carter (Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in the House Of Lords), and MPs from all parties including members of the influential DCMS Select Committee.

The group says the retail discount scheme, as announced in the 2018 autumn budget, currently "discriminates" against grassroots music venues by stating that they “are not similar in nature” to pubs and clubs.

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher (pictured) said: “It’s nonsensical to classify grassroots music venues as being ‘not similar’ to pubs and clubs. The revaluation of business rates officially discriminates against these venues and we hope the Chancellor will listen to cross-party MPs and rethink this flawed policy.

“Grassroots venues are an essential part of our brilliant and diverse music industry that contributes £4.5bn a year to the economy. Piling the pressure on them with huge rent hikes just means more will face the threat of closure – something that could cause incalculable damaged to the music industry’s talent pipeline.

“The Government talked a lot about the need for an industrial strategy. Here’s a chance to put words into action.”

The 2017 business rate revaluation has amounted to a 31% rise in business rates payable by grassroots venues, meaning some venues such as The MacBeth in East London have endured a rate hike of £20,496 – an increase of 806%, taking their current business rate to £23,040.

In a letter to Hammond, politicians say: “Small grassroots music venues gave our biggest musical exports, including Ed Sheeran, Adele, Sam Smith and The 1975, their start. Our ability as an industry to develop future talent is put at risk if they have nowhere to nurture their talent.

"The modest change to the guidance that we are asking for would cost just over £1 million over two years, benefiting 124 venues in the process, and would provide much needed help to grassroots music venues that operate at very low margins.”

The intervention comes after Dugher and Labour’s shadow culture minister Kevin Brennan raised the issue at a meeting with Hammond in February.

APPG on Music chairman and Conservative MP David Warburton said: “As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music I’ve campaigned on a number of issues to keep our grassroots music venues open – 35% have closed over the past decade with rising business rates often being a leading cause.

{The Chancellor’s Spring Statement is an enormous opportunity for the Government to get behind music and put in place measures to ensure rate relief benefits the most vulnerable venues in our communities. This opportunity really must not be missed!" 

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