jakub | February 28, 2024

MVT blast Welsh budget for putting hundreds of jobs and gig spaces at risk

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has criticised the Welsh budget for putting hundreds of jobs and grassroots venues at risk.

The MVT’s CEO Mark Davyd blasted those responsible for the budget in a new letter sent to the Welsh Government, after it was revealed that the Business Rates relief for pubs, shops and restaurants was expected to be cut from 75 per cent to 40 per cent.

The update was published at the end of 2023, and the reduced financial support is expected to put hundreds of jobs and local spaces at risk – affecting the ‘gig economy’ in Wales in particular.

In the letter – which you can read in full here – Davyd outlines the negative consequences that will come from the new budget.

“The gross profit from the entire sector in Wales in 2023 was £119,000. The proposed fall in rates relief creates a new additional cost of £127,000,” it reads. “If signed off as planned, this single measure puts the sector, as an entire network, into the red.”

“It places the long-term resilience of Welsh Grassroots Music Venues (GMVs) at a severe and direct competitive disadvantage when compared to their cultural counterparts in England that will continue to be entitled to rate relief, resulting in very significant national disparity between costs associated with touring,” it added. “37 Grassroots Music Venues in Wales (77 per cent) are subject to the increase in costs, allowing for all models of rate relief.”

In the figures put forward, the letter also reads that the decreased relief rates “present an immediate threat of closure to 16 venues – 33.3 per cent of all the venues in Wales.”

“If these 16 venues close, the direct cost to the rates budget would be £153,679. Only 12 of these venues would need to close before the total raised from the predicted increase delivered by this budget measure (£127,000) would be eliminated by business closures,” it continued. “588 jobs, £8million of economic activity, 3500 events and 30,000 performance opportunities for musicians are at direct risk from this measure.”

Since sharing the letter – which was a follow-up to the MVT initially reaching out last month – a response has been issued by Dawn Bowden, the Deputy Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism of Wales.

In the reply, shared on MVT’s website, Bowden informs Davyd that the Welsh government are planning on “investing an additional £78m to provide a fifth successive year of support for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with their non-domestic rates bills.”

This, they add, “builds on the almost £1bn of support provided through our retail, leisure and hospitality rates relief schemes since 2020-21.”

“Eligible ratepayers will receive 40% non-domestic rates relief for the duration of 2024-25. As in previous years, the relief will be capped at £110,000 per business across Wales,” the response continues. “This temporary relief was never intended to continue indefinitely and our move to more frequent revaluations will ensure that non-domestic rates bills better reflect up-to-date market conditions for all sectors of the tax-base.”

Finally, Bowden outlines that the Draft Budget for 2024-2025 was developed as the Welsh government is looking at the “toughest financial situation we have faced since devolution” and has been forced to “make some very difficult decisions to refocus funding towards core, frontline public services.”

The update on the grassroots music scene across Wales comes just weeks after the MVT shared a new report, showing the “disaster” that struck the UK’s grassroots music venues in 2023, and calling for a ticket levy on larger arenas and investment from the wider industry.

Corey Alexander, Todd Dorigo and Dougie Poynter of INK. perform live on stage at Clwb Ifor Bach on May 11, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales.
Corey Alexander, Todd Dorigo and Dougie Poynter of INK. perform live on stage at Clwb Ifor Bach on May 11, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Mike Lewis Photography/Redferns/Getty Images)

In the full report, key findings were that 2023 was their “most challenging year”, and 125 UK venues were forced to abandon live music, while over half of them had shut entirely – including the legendary Moles in Bath. It was also reported that venues’ rent had increased by 37.5 per cent, with them operating at an average profit margin of just 0.5 per cent.

“23.6million people visited a grassroots music venue in the UK in 2023, which is an increase on the previous year,” MVT COO Beverley Whitrick said, introducing the report at the House Of Commons. “Sometimes people say to us when they ask about closures, ‘Is it that people are not interested in going anymore?’ Of course, that’s not the case at all.”

More recently, entertainment giant Live Nation last week reported its biggest year yet in 2023, taking into account both concert attendance and ticket sales.

The company, which owns Ticketmaster, published its end-of-year report on February 22, which revealed that live music soared worldwide over those 12 months “from clubs to stadiums”, with 145million fans attending over 50,000 events (up 20 per cent from 2022). Despite this, however, an average of two grassroots venues closed per week, due to issues such as soaring energy prices, landlords increasing rate amounts, supply costs, business rates, licensing issues, noise complaints and the continuing impacts of COVID.

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