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Mark Davyd, founder & CEO of Music Venue Trust, reacts to the Government’s scaled back support for businesses under the Energy Bill Relief Scheme.

Yesterday, the chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced details of the support that the Government proposes to offer from 1 April to manage the excessive and extortionate cost of energy supplies to grassroots music venues. That statement needs further clarification since the outcomes of it seem, putting it mildly, bizarre.

The challenges caused by energy bills to grassroots music venues is understood by Jeremy Hunt and the Government to be so bad that he has been compelled to write to Ofgem asking that they take action and do something about it. That’s good – something does need to be done, because the charges and conditions being forced upon the sector are absurd. The average increase in the sector is 278%. Demands are being made for excessive deposits,  suppliers don’t actually want to supply and frankly, there is no market.  There is simply an expensive monopoly with extraordinary prices and conditions.

“Whilst Jeremy Hunt fully accepts that these energy bills will close music venues, he is not prepared to do anything concrete about it.”

However, apparently the same evidence that has caused Jeremy Hunt to send the letter to Ofgem laying out these issues was considered insufficient that it would cause him to include grassroots music venues within the specific support he subsequently announced. Venues, alongside the whole of hospitality, have been dumped into a general category of support that is so insufficient that it must inevitably result in permanent closures of venues. And we don’t mean that the current venue operator will not be able to survive. We mean that whole buildings currently used for live music will become economically impossible to stage live music in, purely on the basis of the cost of the energy required.

These two things appear to be in direct conflict, creating a ‘Schroedinger’s Venue’ which apparently cannot possibly afford these bills but also doesn’t need help with them.

We are therefore forced to conclude that whilst Jeremy Hunt fully accepts that these energy bills will close music venues, he is not prepared to do anything concrete about it… except send letters.

Meanwhile, the package of supported industries includes libraries and museums, who have neither comparatively high energy bills nor a non-functioning energy market and the basis on which he seems to have made the decisions on what would and would not be included in a package of support from 1  April are, at best, highly unusual.

Mr Hunt has told Ofgem he would like to see the results of the investigation he has asked for in time for the budget. We would strongly urge them to complete that work with sufficient expediency that the chancellor can revisit the support in that budget and recognise that grassroots music venues should have been included within the exceptional support he has offered to libraries and museums.