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Music Venue Trust welcomes 50% business rates cut for small music venues

By | Published on Monday 27 January 2020

Music Venue Trust

The Music Venue Trust has welcomed the announcement that – after much campaigning – the government plans to cut business rates for small and medium sized music venues by 50%.

“This is a much needed and long overdue boost for grassroots music venues”, says MVT Strategic Director Beverley Whitrick. “Music Venue Trust has been working hard with government on this issue for the last four years and it is a huge breakthrough for us and the members of the Music Venues Alliance. We’d like to thank our partners at UK Music and Musicians’ Union for their support and help in getting this over the line”.

High business rates are frequently cited as one reason for why it has become increasingly hard to operate grassroots music venues in the UK. Particular concerns were raised in 2017 after a big overhaul of business rates saw some venues left with a massive increase in their liabilities, disproportionate to their size. Later that year, UK Music noted: “One small venue, the Lexington in North London, has seen a staggering rise of 118% in its rateable value this year. Meanwhile, Arsenal’s 60,000 capacity Emirates Stadium nearby enjoyed a 7% cut in its rateable value”.

There had been hopes that small venues would be included in a tax break for high street premises, which included pubs, but they were not. With such businesses already operating on very tight margins, there were concerns that the higher business rates – and the lack of any tax break – would result in more grassroots venues being shutting down.

Also welcoming the new rate relief scheme, MVT CEO Mark Davyd comments: “The extension of the relief will see 230 grassroots music venues across England and Wales benefit, with the average saving per venue equating to a reduction in overheads of £7500 per annum”.

He adds: “It follows other wins for the sector including a new ring-fenced fund announced by Arts Council England in May 2019, which released £1.5 million of subsidy into the sector, and changes to planning guidance and the legal framework across the UK which have brought additional protections for music venues from developers and noise complaints through agent of change”.

Explaining what this cut will mean in practical terms, Assistant General Manager of The Leadmill in Sheffield, Rebecca Walker, says: “Business rates are one of our largest annual overheads. Thanks to the incredible work of all of the MVT team, this significant reduction will really help us to invest in not only music and the arts, but the staff and infrastructure needed to continue putting on great shows for the people of Sheffield”.

The rate cut for venues is actually part of a new tax relief scheme for pubs. But, unlike previous schemes of this kind, music venues are included. Cinemas also become eligible for the tax break this time around. Music venues will be able to claim a 50% cut in rates, up to £51,000. The measures will come into force in April.