09/01/2019: UK Music CEO Michael Dugher and Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd have written to the Chancellor accusing him of discriminating against music venues over the issue of business rates and called for Treasury guidance to be changed.
Their request follows a letter from a Treasury official in December which said that music venues – unlike bars and pubs – would not be eligible to apply for a discount on their business rates.
In the letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond, the pair said figures from the Music Venue Trust showed that 35% of grassroots music venues have shut in the past decade.
They accused the Government of “discriminating by definition” against music venues and highlighted a number of examples that revealed the unequal treatment of the music industry under the current rating system.
For example, Arsenal Football Club enjoyed a 7% cut in its business rates on its Emirates Stadium as a result of a revaluation in April 2017, whereas the nearby Lexington music venue was hit with an increase of 118%.
The Government’s policy on business rates, as set out in guidance, fails to acknowledge music venues are similar in nature to pubs and bars and are not eligible for the retail discount as a result.
The Treasury’s message is that if music venues wish to obtain similar tax advantages to other similar licensed premises they should turn off the music.
In the letter, Mr Dugher and Mr Davyd said: “The Government’s policy on business rates, as set out in the letter and accompanying guidance, is discriminatory towards grassroots music venues. It fails to acknowledge these venues are similar in nature to pubs and bars and that they should not be eligible for the retail business rates discount as a result.
“Bars, pubs and music venues have a number of obvious similarities: they are all customer focused experiences whose core business is to provide entertainment, food and drink for the benefit of patrons.
“We kindly ask that you change the guidance by stating that music venues are similar in nature to pubs and bars for the purposes of the scheme.
“If HM Treasury do not revisit this policy, your message to grassroots music venues is that if they wish to obtain similar tax advantages to other similar licensed premises, or even relief from additional taxes, they should turn off the music or close down.”
Mr Dugher added: “The Treasury is discriminating by definition against music venues. If the Treasury does not revisit this policy, its message to grassroots music venues is that if they wish to obtain tax advantages, or even relief from additional taxes, they should turn off the music or close down.”
Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd said: “This is a perfect opportunity for government to take action on the challenges faced by grassroots music venues.
“At the moment, that opportunity has been missed because government has not still not fully understood the social, cultural and economic importance of these venues and the serious threat posed by their loss right across the UK. That error can be corrected with a simple update to the guidance and we strongly urge the Chancellor to think again.”
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