MVT calls for rates relief extension amid grassroots music’s ‘full-blown crisis’

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Music Venue Trust (MVT) has called on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to extend the 75% business rate relief after claiming 15% of grassroots venues have closed in the last 12 months.

In an open letter published ahead of November’s Autumn Statement, MVT described the closure of 125 venues as evidence of a “full-blown crisis” for the sector. The knock-on effect of these closures includes the loss of 4,000 jobs, 14,250 events and £59m in direct economic activity.

MVT said the current 75% rates relief is worth £15m annually for a sector which posted a profit of just £1m in 2022.

The letter to Hunt comes after the Chancellor earlier this week said it will be “virtually impossible” to deliver tax cuts until the UK economy improves.

“If you remove the Rates relief, you will plunge the entire grassroots sector into the red,” the MVT said in the letter to Hunt. “Venues must and will close as a result.

“Even more local communities will lose their access to live music. Artists will have nowhere to start their careers. More job losses, less economic activity, less Research and Development. The UK risks producing fewer world-beating artists as a direct result of the decision you make on this issue in your Autumn Statement.

“You have said you don’t have the economic conditions to consider tax cuts. Grassroots music venues don’t have the economic conditions to allow tax rises.”

The government introduced a 50% business rates relief for grassroots music venues to assist the sector in January 2020, just a few weeks before Covid-19 restrictions were put in place. That relief was extended to 100% during the pandemic, then reduced to 75% in the post-pandemic economic climate.

MVT said Hunt’s predecessor Rishi Sunak – now the UK’s Prime Minister – initially introduced the rates relief in 2020 as an admission that it is “an egregious and inequitable tax”. The relief rate of 75% protects grassroots music venues from “an excessive and poorly reasoned taxation,” it argued.

An MVT report published earlier this year claimed that its members put on 17% fewer events in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic 2019.