Letter to the Chancellor about business rates for grass roots music venues

Date: 12 March 2019

Dear Chancellor,

Prior to tomorrow’s Spring Statement, I have received a number of emails from my constituents regarding the damaging impact of rising business rates on local and grassroots music venues in Brighton Pavilion.

As a result, I am calling on you to extend the business rates retail discount given to pubs in the Autumn Budget 2018, so that it includes grassroots music venues. I know that your previous positon has been to consider music venues “not similar in nature” to pubs and clubs, but this indicates a lack of understanding about what constitutes a grassroots music venue. Venues like The Hope and Ruin in my constituency serve food and drink and provide entertainment in ways that are very similar to pubs and bars, and excluding them from the business rates discount is illogical. It also makes no economic sense.

Small and intimate music venues are an integral part of Brighton Pavilion’s dynamic local economy. Yet nationally, due in large part to increases in business rates, 35% of grassroots music venues have been forced to close in the past decade, according to UK Music, with significant impacts for the  music and entertainment scene in my constituency and elsewhere. If grassroots music venues were granted a business rates discount in line with that given to pubs  it would cost the Treasury just over £1 million over the course of two years, allowing 124 music venues to benefit from an average saving of £4,146 per year. Given that the live music industry is worth well over £1 billion to the national economy, acting now to prevent the closure of more grassroots music venues, which are often where global artists start out, represents a sound investment in the future.

The 2017 revaluation of business rates resulted in rateable values increasing by around 25% and a 31% increase in payable business rates. Local authorities are increasingly reliant on these funds and rather than leaving decisions about the retail discount to their discretion, I hope you will use tomorrow’s Statement to back grassroots music venues, at the same time as increasing local authority financing to the levels required to meet local need.

Yours sincerely,

 

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