IT’S victory for The News and small businesses across the area after the government announced it would review business rates.
In recent weeks, The News has campaigned, along with its sister titles in Johnston Press, for business rates to be overhauled now, rather than wait for a review in more than two years’ time.
Yesterday, as part of the Autumn Statement, chancellor George Osborne announced rates relief for small businesses has been extended and the annual £1,000 rebate for small retailers, shops and restaurants, has been raised to £1,500.
That will help ease the burden of rates that some traders in the area said was crippling their businesses.
The chancellor also said the government will carry out a review of the future structure of business rates and will publish its interim findings from its review in December 2015.
Debbie Watts, a director of Solent Mobility Centre in Lee-on-the-Solent high street and chairwoman of the Lee Business Association, said: ‘I think the government needs to do something for small businesses on the high streets.
‘With high streets collapsing, the rates do play a big part of it.
‘It is another huge amount of money to find every month. It is not down to local authorities – it is the government. I think they should look at it again.’
Andre Guedeney, manager of La Croissanterie, a baguette shop in Osborne Road, Southsea, said: ‘It’s about time that something was done to help small businesses and it’s great The News have campaigned for this.
‘The rates have been too high for too long. It’s tough enough to try and make a go of things, without added rates. Every day we face increased costs and every day it becomes harder to compete.
‘Without small businesses like us, the high street would lose that personal touch.’
Tom Holloway, director of Holloway Iliffe & Mitchell, property consultants in Portsmouth, said ‘every little helps’ when it comes to assisting retailers and high streets.
He said: ‘The devil is always in the detail. It appears they have extended the relief for small businesses and it will help the high street. The problems faced by high streets are not just about business rates. There are more problems but this will help.’
Neil Eames, development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses in our area, said: ‘The chancellor has listened to the needs of business, despite tight public finances. We are delighted to see a full review of the outdated business rates system, which is something we have long campaigned for.’
Newspaper group’s campaign put issue on agenda
THE News has been praised for its campaigning after chancellor George Osborne announced a review of business rates in yesterday’s Autumn Statement.
More than 5,000 people signed our nationwide petition which called on Mr Osborne to carry out an urgent review of the entire business ratings system and freeze the rate while a review was conducted.
Although the rate has not been frozen, small retail businesses have seen the amount of discount they are entitled to rise 50 per cent to £1,500, which is seen as a boost to many small independent shops.
Ashley Highfield, the chief executive of Johnston Press, said: ‘As local media owners we have a duty to businesses – and the communities they serve – to ensure this remains on the news agenda if change is to happen.’
Michael Weedon, the director of communications at the British Independent Retailers Association and our partners in the campaign, welcomed the review but was disappointed that rates were not frozen in the interim.
He said: ‘There is evidence that the government knows there is real evidence there is a problem which needs to be solved.’
A government spokesman said the review would be the most wide ranging review of business rates since they were designed in 1988 but emphasised that the government would not want to lose any revenue as a result of the study.