Rate relief is a big boost for small firms in Lancaster

Market Cobbler. Peter Corke.
Market Cobbler. Peter Corke.

Small business owners in Lancaster are likely to be thousands of pounds better off when changes to rate payments come into effect next year.

According to the latest rates assessments, 60 businesses within the Lancaster Business Improvement District (BID) zone have a rateable value of less than £12,000, and will therefore become exempt from April 2017.

John O’Neill, chamber manager of North Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said there is currently a 100 per cent rate relief for properties with a value of £6,000 or less, with full rates payable above the £6,000.

However, the government is likely to change this with the new system.

Mr O’Neill said: “This is really good news for smaller businesses with a rateable value under £12,000.

“Like all pieces of legislation it is subject to passing in Parliament however I would expect it to pass as it takes a big burden off smaller retailers and businesses.

“The extra thousands of pounds that this will leave in small businesses could be a real saviour for the future of the High Street in general.”

Peter Corke, who runs the Market Cobbler in New Street, already falls under the £6,000 rate relief amount, so does not pay business rates.

He said: “It saves me £3-4,000 per year and that obviously allows me some extra income and the option of employing more staff. It’s a big plus that they’re going to double the catchment for it.”

However Sarah Halkyard, of Gillisons Bag Shop next door, said: “It’s a great idea, but I don’t think it’s the right way of helping people with big shops that sell low value bulky items. It seems unfair that small shops with high value itemsthat make millions pay nothing, while large shops with lower value items have to pay more.”

Ben Hall, who runs a business in King Street, said: “Our shop unit at Supermarché falls within the original bracket and it’s been a real godsend. “Being a young start up business with next to no capital the rate relief has allowed us to grow incrementally much easier.”

Mr O’Neill added: “These savings may mean that business can expand, take on more staff or increase their product line but in the days of increasing online competition every help is welcomed. All they’ll pay is the levy which is a fraction and will be spent directly in the BID zone. Many high street businesses are already at a disadvantage against online stores because internet businesses don’t have as many of the costs associated with having a storefront.”