UK Music's call to end the “discrimination” over business rates that could force grassroots music venues to shut has gained cross-party support from senior MPs
UK Music CEO Michael Dugher and Labour’s Shadow Culture Minister Kevin Brennan have met Chancellor Philip Hammond for urgent talks after some venues were hit by business rate rises of over 800%.
The meeting came after Dugher and Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd wrote to the Chancellor in January accusing him of discriminating against music venues over the issue of business rates and called for Treasury guidance to be changed. It followed 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 urged the Chancellor to add grassroots music venues within the qualifying value of between £12,001 and £50,999 within the retail discount, reducing their business rate bills by one-third.
“I’m pleased that the Chancellor listened to what we had to say about why we need a specific targeted change on business rates to safeguard the future of so many of our cherished grassroots venues," said Dugher. "Grassroots music venues are a crucial part of the music ecosystem that generates future talent for an industry that contributes £4.5 billion to our economy.
“The current position discriminates against music venues compared to pubs and bars. Unless the Chancellor revisits this issue, there is a very real danger that too many venues will have to turn off the music or even shut down for good. If UK plc wants to retain its preeminent position as being a world leader in music, our industry needs the strategic support of government."
According to UK Music estimates given to Mr Hammond, 124 grassroots venues face an average rate rise of 31%. They could potentially qualify for the new discount, saving them approximately £4,147 a year. Over two years, allowing music venues the discount would cost the Treasury £1 million.
Shadow Culture Minister Kevin Brennan said: “In last year’s UK Live Music Census, 33% of small music venues reported that business rates increases had an “extreme, strong or moderate” impact on their existence in the past 12 months. The Chancellor must recognise the importance of these venues as the R&D of the UK’s successful music industry and extend the rates discount given to pubs to protect their future.
“In an age where stadium gigs are increasingly expensive, independent music venues are accessible, inclusive and affordable places for everybody to experience live music. These venues are the lifeblood of the £4.5 billion music industry, providing much needed opportunities for up and comers and local talent to learn and develop their craft.”
Former Culture Minister and Conservative MP Ed Vaizey added: "Grassroots music venues are the lifeblood of our music industry – but the existence of many is being threatened by rising business rates. If our creative industries are to continue their upward trajectory, the Treasury must reassess the eligibility of music venues for discounted rates in their own right. We need these venues to survive and thrive and they deserve our support to do so."