The headline one third off business rates to help town centres is welcome but exactly who qualifies is unclear. In his speech the Chancellor said independent shops, pubs and restaurants. The budget red book just says retail premises.
Dover District Council estimated that around 400 businesses across the district would benefit, the Chamber could only identify 25-30 in Deal. The existing small business rate relief doesn’t apply where a business operates from two premises, however small. Whether this restriction will apply to the new concession as a method of identifying independent is uncertain.
Our MP couldn’t clarify before the print deadline passed and even a direct enquiry to The Treasury went unanswered. Will a boutique with small branches in Deal & Herne Bay qualify, a shop with operations in Walmer and Folkestone, a chain of 16 family butchers?
Presumably not a chain with hundreds of pubs but they all contribute to the vibrancy of a town centre. Staff costs are the other big overhead that affects the viability of most town centre businesses and for those that do qualify it will help pay for the 4.9% increase in the living wage also announced in the Budget which is well above the rate that can be easily absorbed by shops and hospitality businesses without cutting hours or putting up prices.