Government Business Rates Review 2017 – Urgent Action Needed

Music Venue Trust warmly welcomes recent government moves to secure and protect the Grassroots Music Venues sector through amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework and the Town & Country Planning Act. A positive approach to ensuring a future for these venues by both DCLG and DCMS has resulted in additional support proposed in paragraphs 140 and 141 of the Housing White Paper.

Grassroots Music Venues have come under substantial external threats in the last ten years, resulting in a decline of 35% in the total number of Grassroots Music Venues trading in the UK, and we appreciate the steps government is taking to combat that decline.

However, a grave and urgent threat has emerged to the future of these venues as a result of the Business Rates Review 2017 which threatens to undermine these positive steps. Specifically, within London, the Business Rates Review has resulted in proposed increases of between 35 to 55% in the amount venues will pay.

There is no capacity within the economic model to achieve such an increase.

Grassroots Music Venues that have survived the last ten years find themselves in a precarious economic position, which leaves them unable to pass any such increase onto their audiences without substantially reducing access to culture and/or placing attendance at risk.

Even with proposed transitional relief, such increases are unachievable by Grassroots Music Venues and will, inevitably, result in additional closures.

This threat, like many others during recent years, has not been designed by government. We recognise that there is no deliberately punitive intent on the part of any local, regional, or national agency. Rather, it is the application of ‘the law of unintended consequences’; Grassroots Music Venues have a social, cultural and economic role which has not been recognised in the review.

That role is sufficiently important to the future of the UK’s music and cultural economy that we believe that everyone will agree that we need to take action to ensure that we do not further damage the grassroots music venues sector as the unintended consequence of the Business Rates Review.

We have written to Matt Hancock, Culture Minister, Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and the Chancellor Philip Hammond to ask them to work together to urgently consider what steps can be taken to mitigate the negative impact on Grassroots Music Venues.

This might include creating a specific category that addresses their cultural position, to bring them into line with theatres, arts centres etc, or by providing access to additional transitional relief.

We would like to work with national government to ensure that action is taken to mitigate the potential damage arising from the Business Rates Review. We acknowledge that the direct imposition of the new Business Rates is a matter for local government, but we want to provide clear direction and support to those local authorities so that they are enabled to specifically support Grassroots Music Venues.

This is an important matter to all Grassroots Music Venues across the UK and we ask that you address it with urgency.

If you are a grassroots music venue concerned about the impact of the Business Rates Review on your future, you can take action to support our call to government.

CHECK: Your new Business Rates valuation is online now. Check it using your postcode HERE
WRITE: to the Chief Executive of your local authority about the impact that the Business Rates Review has on your own venue. You can find out who is your local authority HERE
WRITE: to your local MP with clear details on the impact of your review. Find your MP HERE