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Senior politicians support UK Music’s fight against venue business rates

Michael Dugher, CEO of UK Music, and Labour's shadow culture minister Kevin Brennan met with chancellor Philip Hammond after some grassroots venues were affected by business rate rises of over 800 per cent, and now senior politicians are joining the cause

Senior politicians across the board of UK political parties have shown support for UK Music’s call to make grassroots music venues eligible for business rates rebates, following a meeting with the chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond.

Michael Dugher, CEO of UK Music, and Labour’s shadow culture minister Kevin Brennan – who had previously raised the industry’s concerns with Hammond in the House of Commons – met with the chancellor after some grassroots venues were downtrodden by business rates rises of over 800 per cent.

Dugher presented a document at the meeting, outlining the impact of the four per cent 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 in east London, experience a tax increase of £20,496 – a rate hike of 806 per cent. The Music Venue Trust (MVT) revealed that 35 per cent of music venues have closed in a decade and the business rate hike could force many more to shut down within months if things continue on in this way.

The meeting concerned a call from music organisations to make music venues eligible for the retail discount on business rates, which currently only applies to shops, restaurants and drinking establishments.

Brennan stated: “In last year’s UK Live Music Census, 33 per cent 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 and extend the rates discount given to pubs to protect their future.”

In December last year, Her Majesty’s Treasury announced that music venues would not be eligible for the rebate. In response, Dugher and MVT CEO, 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 was confident this would save small venues from financial troubles and help to nurture the talent pipeline vital to establishing the future of British music.

“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,” commented 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.

As part of the fight for grassroots venues’ security, Music Venue Trust recently launched a campaign to support the venues by calling on music lovers to collect data for its annual survey. For more information, find the article here