Town businesses welcome reduction in rates but still fear for future and rising costs

PUBLISHED: 15:22 06 November 2018

High Street

High Street

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Sidmouth business have welcomed the Chancellor’s plans to cut rates £1.5billion, bringing relief to small struggling shops nationwide.

Natalie Bowditch of Sidmouth Wines, Sharon Hobson of Flutterbys and John Wycherley of Sidmouth Gifts with their rates bills. Ref shs 11 18TI 4892. Picture: Terry IfeNatalie Bowditch of Sidmouth Wines, Sharon Hobson of Flutterbys and John Wycherley of Sidmouth Gifts with their rates bills. Ref shs 11 18TI 4892. Picture: Terry Ife

The Chancellor of the Excheque Philip Hammond announced that almost half a million small High Street shops would benefit from the reduction in his Autumn statement last week.

It comes as part of the Government’s wider plan to regenerate the country’s battered high streets and a pledge to fight the threat posed by online retailers and those threatened by high rates.

The budget revealed that retailers in properties with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will have a third wiped off the amount of tax they paid through business rates. According to the Treasury, the change announced will cut bills for up to 90 per cent of small retail properties, according to the Treasury.

The new rules will come into force from April next year and will last for two years, until the next revaluation of rates in 2021.

Sir Hugo Swire. Ref shs 18-17TI 1872. Picture: Terry IfeSir Hugo Swire. Ref shs 18-17TI 1872. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth businesses have been calling for action to bring relief and save the town’s High Street for months. With issues being raised with rapidly rising costs, high rents and unfair ‘business rates’. The Herald has run a string of stories highlighting the plight facing the town’s businesses, some of which have claimed that there wouldn’t be a High Street to save unless urgent action is taken to stop the town’s shops from closing. Since the beginning of 2018 Carinas, Hospiscare, NatWest, New Look and Sweet Temptations, Coles gift shop have closed. Both The Rendezvous and Barclays will be closed before Christmas. Pure Indulgence will leave the town for good in April along with Govier’s of Sidmouth which has been in the town for more than 100 years and is going online only.

Sharon Hobson, of Flutterbys in Fore Street, said: “It’s good news and a step in the right direction. It shows they are listening. But, they are only putting it back to the level it should have been after they increased it too quickly and by too much. And, it is still six months away and I think a lot more people will be gone from Sidmouth by that time. Six months is a long time for people who are already struggling. It is still my belief that the rates system is unfair and that everybody should be paying something.”

Stuart Hayman, of Hayman’s Butchers in Church Street, said: “He has recognised our High Streets are in crisis and at last we will get a reduction. Every little helps to make a difference but costs are still going up fasting than we can cope with.”

East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire said: “I would like to think that my lobbying of the Chancellor and the Government has paid off as he is addressing the many issues I raised, not least of the all the problem with business rates for retail and commercial premises. At our meeting in Sidmouth, I committed myself to lobby the Chancellor and the Treasury and I have done so. I am pleased about the one third cut in rates for businesses with a rateable value of under £51,000, as well as the proposed scheme for redeveloping and refurbishing the high street.

“It is also good to see a real determination at long last to tax the large digital service providers. However, it is important that it is companies and not consumers who are taxed. I hope that, in time, this will release more money to ease the squeeze on independent retailers in our high streets.”

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