Concerns raised over Sidmouth’s independent shops’ future, if rates are not made fairer

Natalie Bowditch of Sidmouth Wines, Sharon Hobson of Flutterbys and John Wycherley of Sidmouth Gifts

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 Ife - Credit: Archant

Outraged independent retailers do not know how they will survive if action is not taken to make business rates fairer in the town.

A new government scheme was introduced last year to bring relief to small businesses. This meant shops with bigger premises paid rates while smaller stores paid nothing, despite whether their earnings were higher or not.

The decision on whether a business pays rates is based on its rateable value which is worked out on the shop’s size, location and other factors, determining how much the owner should pay.

Shops with a rateable value of £12,000 or less are exempt from paying rates. And, properties with a rateable value of £12,001 to £15,000, the rate of relief will go down gradually from 100 per cent to zero per cent.

Sharon Hobson, of Flutterbys in Fore Street, said they paid £850 a month in business rates while other shops paid nothing.

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She added: “Just because our property is bigger doesn’t mean it makes more money.

“I have a small independent business – if you have a shop, which is part of a big company, and you have less takings you have other branches that can help balance things out. We don’t have that.

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“It is going to really affect us. I don’t know how long all the independent shops like mine will last if they don’t start distributing the cost.

“Imagine how people would feel if they changed the council tax system and did this for residential properties, letting some people pay nothing and those with bigger homes bear the brunt of the increase – there would be uproar.”

Sharon said it should be based on people’s turn over and takings to make it fairer.

John Wycherley, of Sidmouth Gifts in Old Fore Street, said he had to find £7,500 a year to pay his rates.

He added: “It is a lot of money to find, I really think something needs to be done about it.

“We have to compete against shops which don’t pay rates because they have small stores or because they are charities. Some shops who don’t have to pay rates take a lot more money than we do.

“Everybody should pay rates or it should be made the same for everyone. I feel it is uneven and very unfair.”

Matthew Collings, who owns Sidmouth Wines with his partner Natalie Bowditch, said if it was based on the turn over of profits it would be fine and much fairer.

He added: “A portion of whatever you make could then go back into supporting the economy.

“If you make no money you still have to pay this huge amount and struggle on.

“Sidmouth will end up being full of charity shops and estate agents, there is nothing wrong with charity shops and estate agents but we think the reason people live, visit and love Sidmouth so much is because we have such a range of great independent shops.

“There is no way we will be able to stay in business if the rates keep going up.”

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