Business rates boost on the way for town’s small traders

M&S is set to close in Weston High Street.Picture: MARK ATHERTON

M&S is set to close in Weston High Street.Picture: MARK ATHERTON - Credit: Archant

Weston’s under-pressure small traders are set to receive a timely boost after a cut in business rates was announced.

The town centre has endured several difficult years as retail patterns have shifted to online shopping, prompting big name businesses like Marks & Spencer to choose to shut down – but many of Weston’s shops will see their business rates cut by a third.

From April, businesses with a rateable value – the formula used to calculate how much companies should pay – below £51,000 will benefit from a discount in rates.

Business rates are set annually by the Treasury, and the cash is shared between North Somerset Council and the Government – but the country’s top politicians hope to revitalise town centres by reducing the financial duress they are experiencing.

Paul Batts, chairman of Weston Business Improvement District, welcomed the initiative – but called on lawmakers to do more to help independent businesses.

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He said: “It is good news North Somerset is adopting the reduction in business rates for small businesses, this will help many small retailers in the area.

“However, the Government needs to do more to tackle the online retailers if we are to preserve our town centres and specialist independent trading areas.”

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The council’s deputy leader, Elfan Ap Rees, added: “The additional support for high street and town development announced in the budget is timely.

“The new small business support reflects our continued work to support our town centre shops and invest in the future of the High Street.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Mike Bell believes the scheme is good news for traders, but criticised his Tory counterparts for claiming responsibility.

He said: “It is good news North Somerset’s smallest businesses will benefit from rate relief from April, however, it’s absurd for North Somerset’s Conservatives to be trying to claim any credit.

“They have no choice but to introduce this relief – it is mandated by the Government.

“When I have proposed a local rate relief scheme for small businesses, and especially to attract retailers into the town centre, they have opposed it.

“Cllr Ap Rees’ claims are just nonsense.”

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