The Music Venue Trust has called on the UK government to again extend business rates relief for grassroots music venues. The organisation warns that plans to bring an ongoing relief scheme to an end next year will accelerate closures in the sector.
Grassroots music venues benefited from a 50% rates relief scheme that was launched in January 2020. Then, in March the same year, the entire retail, hospitality and leisure sector saw rates cut to zero as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since 2021, there has been a 75% relief across these sectors, with a number of extensions following lobbying from organisations like the MVT.
The government recently announced plans to end this relief in April 2024. The MVT estimates that this will increase costs by £15 million across the grassroots music venue sector. It says that its recent annual survey found that 78 grassroots venues have permanently closed in the last year, and fears that a rate increase will only exacerbate this.
“The current business rates system is anachronistic, inconsistent and outdated, and fails to meet the principles of good tax design”, says MVT CEO Mark Davyd.
“The UK government is currently conducting a consultation on wider reforms but the solutions they have so far proposed are in no way radical enough to redress fundamental inequalities that will lead to many more venue closures”.
“We are already losing grassroots music venues at a catastrophic rate, which has had a knock-on effect of 4000 jobs losses, the removal of 14,250 live music events and 193,230 performance opportunities for musicians, £9m of musician income and £59m of economic activity”, he continues.
“By extending business rates relief past next April the government could throw a vital lifeline to grassroots music venues already holding onto survival by their fingertips”.