Major boost for UK’s small venues as business rates are axed

Potentially saving venues £25,000 a year

The British government’s budget, announced today (March 11) by chancellor Rishi Sunak, contains good news for the UK’s small venues.

In order to help ease the economic impact of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Sunak said that businesses with a rateable value of below £51,000 will not pay any business rates for the next year.

It follows the Music Venue Trust’s calls yesterday for both government help and fan support, with small venues suffering drastically amid the coronavirus’ spread.

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Speaking to NME, the Trust’s CEO Mark Davyd said that the Trust had surveyed their many grassroots venue members across the UK and found that 40.1% of them had noticed identifiable downturn in gross income over the past week, while 37.7% had noticed an increased number of fans buying tickets but not coming to gigs, and that 19.1% of venues have had shows cancelled. There’s also been an alarming decrease in the number of advance tickets being sold.

“Even I was surprised by these numbers,” Davyd said. “The sector itself is run on a shoe-string. A change in gross income of 3-5% would be dramatic. We have over 40% of venues reporting losses of 10-50%. The ability of the sector to suffer this for any length of time is completely negligible really.”

The chancellor now claims that the government’s action, which takes effect in April and will last for 12 months, will save businesses £25,000 each.

“In our manifesto last year, the government promised to increase their business rates retail discount by 50 per cent, but we can go further,” Sunak said. “We are taking the exceptional step of abolishing business rates altogether.”

Business rates, a tax levied on non-domestic properties, have long been a major concern for small and independent venues.

The Music Venue Trust responded to the budget in a lengthy Facebook post, in which they said they were ‘particularly pleased’ about the news on business rates.

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However they also said that “this is not all that needs to be done,” pointing out that Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish governments still need to replicate the commitments, and that “too many grassroots music venues in the UK have Rateable Valuations which are simply too high to benefit from […] these measures.

THE BUDGET: MVT RESPONDSThis was always going to be a very positive budget for grassroots music venues, after the…

Posted by Music Venue Trust on Wednesday, March 11, 2020

In January, small venues celebrated a major victory following the Government’s decision to reduce their business rates by 50 per cent.

That reduction was the result of a hard-fought campaign by the Music Venue Trust in response to what they called a “prolonged crisis” for independent venues over the last decade, during which 35 per cent of grassroots music venues have closed.

Shortly afterwards, London venue The 100 Club declared itself “permanently saved” after Westminster council granted it unprecedented “special status” that granted 100 per cent business rate relief.

NME will be teaming up with The 100 Club to host a last minute live showcase to support bands that were set to perform at SXSW this week.

Texas music showcase South By South West was cancelled last week – leaving many new bands and rising artists out of pocket. Now, NME can confirm an alternate London pop up show on Sunday March 22.

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