09/05/2019: UK Music has welcomed an admission from Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright that “suffering” music venues are facing a “very considerable” problem of business rate hikes of 600 per cent.
UK Music CEO Michael Dugher and Labour’s Shadow Culture Minister Kevin Brennan with Chancellor Philip Hammond at a meeting in February
UK Music has welcomed an admission from Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright that “suffering” music venues are facing a “very considerable” problem of business rate hikes of 600 per cent.
The Cabinet Minister’s comments came in response to questions from MPs on the influential Digital, Culture Media and Sport Select Committee on Wednesday (May 8).
His remarks followed a roundtable meeting with UK Music CEO Michael Dugher and UK Music board members in March, where the problem of music venues faced with crippling business rates bills was raised.
UK Music also raised the industry’s concerns when Mr Dugher and Shadow Culture Minister Kevin Brennan met with Chancellor Philip Hammond in February.
Mr Wright revealed to MPs that he was “having a look” at the issue together with Communities Secretary Communities Secretary James Brokenshire.
His disclosure followed concerted pressure from UK Music for a Government re-think over a business rates’ shake-up that unfairly discriminates against music venues compared to pubs and clubs.
UK Music is battling to ensure that music venues benefit from the new business rates retail discount scheme in the same way as other business like clubs and pubs.
Culture Secretary Mr Wright said:
“I entirely accept that there is a problem here that particularly the music venues are suffering very considerable increases and I’m aware of venues which have seen something like 600% increases.
“So, they’re very substantial. We do understand that’s a problem. I’m working through now with colleagues in Government how we might help.”
DCMS committee member and Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens told Mr Wright:
“Grassroots music venues are our talent pipeline for the music industry, but they’ve received an average 31 per cent increase in payable business rates since revaluation in 2017.
“I know the Government wrote to UK Music at the end of last year saying that local discretion should apply when considering whether that retail discount relief should apply to grassroots music venues.
“But that contradicts the advice and the guidance for the relief, which says that music venues aren’t similar in nature to eligible businesses so the scheme won’t apply to them. So, do you think the guidance should be revised?”
Commenting UK Music CEO Michael Dugher said:
“We’re very pleased that Jeremy Wright has listened to UK Music and cross-party MPs and acknowledged the real threat posed to music venues by soaring business rates bills.
“It’s ridiculous to suggest that grassroots music venues are ‘not similar’ to pubs and clubs when they clearly are. A tiny adjustment to the Treasury’s official guidance would cost the Exchequer peanuts - and it would provide significant help for small venues that produce the talent for an industry that contributes £4.5 billion to the economy.
“We are grateful to Jo Stevens MP for raising this important issue and we are grateful to DCMS ministers for their support. We will continue to work with them and on a cross-party basis to help grassroots venues by reversing this damaging anomaly, whereby the Treasury effectively discriminated against grassroots venues”.
In February, Conservative MP David Warburton, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music, wrote a cross-party letter to the Chancellor, urging him to help music venues hit with rocketing business rates bills.
The modest change to Treasury guidance on the issue 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.