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MPs from across the political spectrum back UK Music request to reduce “discriminatory” business rates for 124 UK grassroots music venues
By Anna Grace on 26 Feb 2019
Senior politicians from across the main British political parties have shown support for a call by UK Music to make grassroots music venues eligible for business rates rebates, following a meeting with the chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond.
Michael Dugher, chief executive of umbrella organisation UK Music, and Labour’s shadow culture minister Kevin Brennan met chancellor Hammond for urgent talks after some venues were hit by business rates rises of over 800%.
Brennan had raised the industry’s concerns regarding business rates to the chancellor in the House of Commons. At the meeting, Dugher presented a dossier outlining the impact of the 4% rise in business rates – the tax levied on non-residential property in the UK – on live music venues.
The rise has seen some venues, such as the Macbeth (300-cap.) in east London, experience a tax increase of £20,496 – a rate hike of 806%. The Music Venue Trust (MVT) warns that 35% of music venues have closed in a decade and the business rate hike could force many more to shut down within months without a government rethink.
The meeting concerned a call from music organisations to make music venues eligible for the retail discount on business rates, which applies to shops, restaurants and drinking establishments.
“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,” says Brennan. “The chancellor must recognise the importance of these venues and extend the rates discount given to pubs to protect their future.”
“If the UK wants to retain its preeminent position as being a world leader in music, our industry needs the strategic support of government”
In December, Her Majesty’s Treasury announced that music venues would not be eligible for the rebate. Following the announcement, Dugher and MVT chief executive, Mark Davyd, co-wrote a letter to the chancellor describing government policy on rates as “discriminatory towards grassroots music venues.”
Dugher requested the chancellor add the 124 grassroots music venues within the qualifying value of between £12,001 and £50,999 to the retail discount scheme, reducing the venues’ business rate bills by one-third.
UK Music says this would be a lifeline for small venues and play a vital part in nurturing the talent pipeline vital to the chances of creating the next big British talent.
“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,” comments Dugher.
“If the UK wants to retain its preeminent position as being a world leader in music, our industry needs the strategic support of government.”
Politicians including former culture minister and Conservative MP Ed Vaizey, Liberal Democrat digital, culture, media and sport spokesperson Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter and conservative MP Sir Greg Knight have lent their support to UK Music’s request.