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Following the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement yesterday (22 November), live events industry associations have welcomed the extension of the 75% business rates for leisure, hospitality and retail businesses, but concerns remain over a lack of a reduction in VAT.

The freeze on business rates was welcomed by LIVE (Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment), the Music Venue Trust (MVT), the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) and the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA).

However, the NTIA has expressed concern at the “missed opportunity’ with the Autumn Statement and the AIF said a lowering of VAT on ticket sales is more important for the independent festival sector.

NTIA CEO Michael Kill noted that while the extension of the 75% business rates discount for smaller retail and hospitality businesses in England is welcome, for many this support will be “wholly swallowed up” by the announced increase in the national living wage, stating that these decisions would do little to “stave off a critical tipping point” for thousands of businesses across the industry this winter.

While the AIF supported the freeze on business rates, CEO John Rostron said the VAT on ticket sales needs to be urgently lowered to 5% to support the independent festival sector. “We will continue conversations with the Government towards that end,” said Rostron.

Kill also pointed out the lack of a reduction in VAT, suggesting that such a reduction would align the UK with several European counterparts, potentially fostering investment, growth, and overall business confidence.

LIVE CEO Jon Collins said the extension of the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure relief scheme for another year addresses a core ask of its 2023 manifesto: “The UK’s live music industry is an engine of growth, generating £5.2 billion in 2022 and employing over 228,000 people last year, with a gig held every four minutes. However, grassroots venues have been operating on a knife edge so it’s crucial that government continues to support this critical part of our sector with the right reliefs and funding mechanisms. The Government is committed to supporting growth and innovation across the creative industries. The extension of business rates relief will be pivotal for those grassroots venues that are responsible for so much of the R&D in the live music sector.”

Welcoming the continuation of the 75% relief to business rates for grassroots music venues, MVT CEO Mark Davyd said the potential cancellation of this relief presented the possibility of an additional £15 million in pre-profit taxation falling onto a grassroots sector, which has seen more than 100 venues have closed in the last 12 months.

Davyd said, “It was essential to keep this relief in place and we are pleased that our presentations to Treasury were listened to and acknowledged by this outcome. We hope that this further extension into 2025 for this relief will provide the necessary window of opportunity for the government to complete the full review of Business Rates on Grassroots Music Venues which it committed to in January 2019.”

Davyd also welcomed to uplift to minimum wage: “The grassroots sector is notoriously undervalued and underpaid, from the artists performing through all levels of roles and staffing, up to and including the venue operators themselves – in 2022, the average grassroots music venue operator paid themselves £20,400 per annum, delivering 66 hours of work per week at a rate of £6.43 per hour. An uplift to fees and wages across the sector is long overdue. We look forward to working with the Chancellor, HM Treasury and DCMS to identify the necessary funding which can deliver this statutory increase to minimum wage and extend the scope and scale of it so that everyone in the Grassroots Sector can be adequately rewarded for their work.”