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Live sector still hopes government review can address business rate issues for festivals

By | Published on Monday 30 November 2015

Houses Of Parliament

After Chancellor Of The Exchequer George Osborne confirmed last week that the government’s review of business rates would now not report until next March, the live community has again expressed concern about that way the Valuation Office Agency – which advises the tax man on the taxable value of property – has been recommending business rates be applied to festival sites where previously no such payments were required.

As previously reported, representatives for the festival industry have made a submission to the business rates review, which had originally been expected to report this side of Christmas.

They expressed concern about recent changes in the business rates status of some field festival sites, and the lack of clarity on the rules the VOA is following. Festival promoters hope the review will clarify the situation, preferably confirming that business rates should not apply to festival sites which are “temporary and ancillary uses of agricultural land”.

Confirming that the sector would now await the business rates review with hope and interest, Paul Reed, General Manager of the Association Of Independent Festivals, told reporters last week: “Following the confirmation that an announcement on the business rates review is due in March, event and festival organisers are hoping that the government will use this as an opportunity to take action on business rates for our sector”.

He went on: “The recent imposition of business rates on festival land by the Valuation Office Agency is already having far-reaching consequences, not only on the viability of festival and events, but also on the rural landowners and communities that host them, and has the potential to reduce significantly the economic benefits festivals and events bring to rural areas”.

On the festival sector’s submission, he added: “We have responded to the business rates review consultation with an industry-wide coalition of 720 events and festival organisers, and demonstrated to government how the VOA’s actions are endangering the significant contribution our sector makes to the UK economy and rural communities. Festivals and rural landowners will continue to suffer from the VOA’s unfair and inconsistent application of business rates unless action is taken”.

Meanwhile, one of the promoters also lobbying on this issue, Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn, added: “The Valuation Office Agency’s change in approach, meaning that now business rates are being applied to festival sites, could have serious consequences for the sector and for the rural communities that benefit economically from festivals and events. We hope that the government will seek to take action on this issue in the coming months”.