Hikes in business rates could squeeze independent firms off our high streets, it has been warned.
Last week’s budget went some way to assuage fears about the impact of increases to bills, but some companies are still worried about what the future may hold.
Many are facing huge rises in their rateable value, which is used to determine how much they have to pay, under the new valuations being rolled out by the Government.
For example, the rateable value of the former Bar Sport site, in King Street, is set to nearly double, from £44,750 to £84,500, according to HMRC’s website.
The problem is not just contained to the town centre.
Roberto Palmieri, who runs Palmieri’s Cafe, in Furze Platt Road, is facing the prospect of an extra £1,000 being added to his annual bill.
He said: “I have a responsibility in my business – I take a lower wage and I put my staff and my business first.
“To me, this is a very serious political situation which is not doing any good for the town.
“I’m really, really unhappy about this.
“£1,000 more to us, on our profit margins? We need to take in more like an extra £10,000 to account for that.
“It makes things incredibly difficult and as you know the spending confidence is not that high at the moment and there’s a lot of uncertainty around.”
Alan Murray, managing director of Peakes Menswear, in the High Street, said in the age of internet shopping it was no longer appropriate to base the rates on property values.
“If it [the shop] is worth £1m, it’s great for the landlord, but what does it bring to the shop itself?” he asked.
“It’s an outdated and unfair system and they really need to bring it up to the 21st century– which they won’t because they’re getting too much money from it and the independent shops are being killed off.”
Peakes, which is about 80 years old, was forced to move from its previous base in King Street in November 2015 due to redevelopment plans for the town centre Landing development.
Mr Murray added he expected independent retailers to continue to be squeezed out of the high street until only the ‘big boys’ were left.
Speaking after last week’s budget statement, Cllr Simon Dudley, the leader of the Royal Borough, said he was delighted to see extra cash made available for local authorities to provide rates relief.
He has also previously urged struggling firms to ask the council about business rates relief.
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