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A CAFE owner who has been trading for more than a decade says she may close by Christmas because of crippling business rates.

Helen Mandrupson owns Cafe Moka, in Wellington Way, Waterlooville, but has fallen behind with her business rates by one month because of the recession.

Last week, Havant Borough Council sent bailiffs demanding £4,000 for payment up until March.

Although she has now come to an agreement with the council she says she gets little return for the £700 a month rates and wants them to take action to save the town’s small businesses.

Ms Mandrupson said: ‘My customers are incredibly supportive but I do fear my cafe is on the brink of closing for good. Opposite my shop are two empty units that are truly awful.

‘There have been drunken men asleep outside at 7.30am, the time I get to work, and I clear up the mess they leave.

‘The shops are unsightly and infested with pigeons and people have to look at that when they sit outside the cafe.

‘It’s disgusting. I have appealed against the business rates but they were reduced by just £1.30 a month.

‘Fortunately, when the bailiff came he could see that Waterlooville is dying, and that by taking my table and chairs and coffee machine – which is the only way I make a living – it would only make it harder. Something has to be done to help Waterlooville.’

Sandra Hook, owner of the neighbouring Rainbow Toy Shop, said: ‘Everyone in the precinct is struggling.’

Ian Grindey, the council’s economic development manager, said rates are set by central government.

‘If a business thinks that the rates are too high, they should in the first instance contact the Valuation Office,’ he said.

‘There is a formal right of appeal and more information can be found on this at voa.gov.uk. We cannot discuss an individual case but we do understand that trading conditions are challenging for local businesses.

‘However retail vacancy rates in the borough, including Waterlooville, remain below the national average and the council remains committed to supporting local business.

‘For example, we are engaging with local business and progressing initiatives to increase town centre footfall and trade including a calendar of events and markets.’