If you’re one of the retailers making use of storage in Bangor, you’ll undoubtedly know the difficult climate of the high street today, however, in a bid to help shops and services survive this tough time, the Welsh government has announced that they will be given business rate cuts next year.
Welsh Government finance minister and new leader of Welsh Labour Party, Mark Drakeford, made the announcement, reports the Bangor Aye, that businesses would be £2,500 better off under the new business rates.
The change will affect around 15,000 businesses, shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs which have a rateable value of up to £50,000, while businesses with a value under £9,100 won’t have to pay rate bills at all.
Representing a £23.6 million investment from the Welsh government, these new high street relief rates will come into effect from April next year, with the scheme originally set up in 2017, and are available to a range of businesses. However, this fund is not just solely for the high street, rather it can be used depending on specific local needs. A secondary, additional fund consists of £2.4 million, which can be used by local authorities at their own discretion.
Drakeford said that the relief is designed to help the high street deal with pressure from the internet and out of town shopping destinations, keeping not only jobs, but shops and services for local people: “This enhanced high street rate relief scheme for 2019-20 will ensure more ratepayers across Wales receive support to pay their bills and can continue to provide much-needed services to their local communities,” he continued.
This is just one part of a dedicated fund to help regenerate and keep the high street alive outlined by the Welsh government. It already provides £210 million annually to help businesses pay their business rates, and last year the government announced another £100 million fund for targeted regeneration of the high street. There is also a £20 million loan fund available for empty spaces and derelict sites in hopes of bringing new life to declining town centres.
“Additional funding for discretionary rates relief, together with the permanent small business rates relief scheme, which has been in place since April 2018, combine to offer timely and targeted support for ratepayers across Wales,” explained Drakeford.
However, some critics believe that the business rates system isn’t fit for purpose. Sara Jones, Head of Policy at the Welsh Retail Consortium, talking to Business News Wales said that she has called for a freeze on business rates for two years until the government can come up with a modern taxation system that works for how modern retail operates.
She also says that in the future, it’s clear the high street will shrink, as there will be fewer shops, but a greater focus on experience - more engaging and in a different role for the local community. Technology will play a big role also, she says, with the likes of Click and Collect a major driver of footfall into not only stores, but towns and high streets in general.