Welsh Government's Short-Term Business Rate Relief Scheme Is Far From a Long-Term Solution

On Monday I will be holding a meeting in the Bear Hotel, Cowbridge, for small business owners affected by the ongoing issue of changing business rates. Specialists in the rateable value from Cooke and Arkwright will be speaking, providing advice on how businesses can appeal new rateable values and keep business rates as low as possible. The meeting is to take place at 6pm in the ballroom of the hotel, and all small business owners in the Vale of Glamorgan are welcome.

Many businesses across the Vale, and particularly in Cowbridge, are bracing themselves to be hit quite hard by new, higher rates over the coming years. The effect of the new rate will be partially mitigated in the short-term by a ‘transitional rate relief’ from the Welsh Government, which will stagger the increase over a longer period of time. Effective campaigning from local businesses led by Sally Stephenson of the Pencil Case stationary store in Cowbridge has forced the Welsh Government to double the size of this fund.

Although this transitional relief is better than nothing, it falls far short of what is needed to protect our high streets. As the name implies, it exists to ease the transition to rates that are too high for many of our most valued business to survive, meaning the eventual impact on high streets will likely be negligible.

What is needed is a permanently enhanced small business rate relief, similar to that which will be used in England by the UK Government from April onwards. As it stands, traders in Wales will pay significantly higher rates in the years to come than businesses in England with premises of the exact same value. This is because in England rates will be abolished for all businesses with a rateable value below £12,000 and tapered up from there. The qualifying band for full relief in Wales is much lower.

For example, a boutique clothes store on Eastgate in Cowbridge, is currently paying £1,546 per year in rates but will be liable for £5,260 per year following revaluation. If the shop were based in England it would pay no business rates at all after April.

Sally Stephenson of the Cowbridge traders’ campaign is very aware of this difference, and is petitioning the Welsh Government for a proper, permanent relief scheme achieving a degree of parity with England. It is up to the Welsh Government to listen and act to protect that most valuable institution in our communities, the High Street.