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UK Music boss says Chancellor's Spring Statement was a 'missed opportunity' to help grassroots venues - but vows to continue the campaign



UK Music CEO Michael Dugher said the Chancellor's Spring Statement was a "missed opportunity" to help grassroots venues hit by a crippling rise in business rates. 

But he vowed UK Music would continue to fight for a Government rethink on the business rates' shake-up that unfairly discriminates against music venues compared to pubs and clubs. 

Grassroots venues are a key part of the eco-system of the music industry which contributes £4.5bn a year to the UK economy. 

UK Music is calling on the Chancellor to ensure music venues benefit from the new business rates retail discount scheme.  Michael raised the issue this week when speaking on a panel during the South By Southwest global music showcase in Austin, Texas. 

The 2017 business rate revaluation has meant a 31 per cent increase in business rates payable by grassroots venues. 

The rise comes after figures from the Music Venue Trust showed that 35 per cent of grassroots venues have closed over the past decade.

The retail discount scheme, announced in the 2018 Autumn Budget, currently discriminates against grassroots music venues by stating that they "are not similar in nature" to pubs and clubs.

Commenting on the Spring Statement, Michael Dugher said:

"The Chancellor missed a great opportunity with his Spring Statement to give some much-needed help to hard-pressed grassroots music venues. 

"It's ludicrous for the Government to say that grassroots music venues are 'not similar' to pubs and clubs.  We will keep pressing the Chancellor to listen to UK Music, the Music Venue Trust and senior MPs from across the political spectrum who want him to urgently rethink this policy. 

"Our chance of developing future talent is put in jeopardy if performers cannot find a place to play to nurture their talent and grow their audience. Supporting grassroots venues must be a key part of the Government's industrial strategy for music."

Michael Dugher and Labour's Shadow Culture Minister Kevin Brennan raised the issue of business rates and music venues at a meeting with Mr Hammond in February.

The discrepancy over varying business rates means that, for  example, Arsenal Football Club had a 7% cut in its business rates on its Emirates Stadium as a result of a revaluation in April 2017, while the nearby Nambucca music venue has been subject to a 44% per cent increase in its rateable value.

The rate hike means some venues such as The MacBeth in east London have endured a rate hike of £20,496 – a huge increase of 806%, taking their current business rate to £23,040.

Meanwhile, UK Music welcomed the Chancellor's announcement that a £700 million package to help small and medium-sized enterprises invest in apprenticeships will be rolled out from next month.

UK Music also welcomed new investment in cities and city regions. The announcement followed UK Music's work with city region mayors to support the night-time economy across the UK. 

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